It Starts at Como Park Zoo…

And it could spread all over the City!

Como Park Zoo's newest addition isn’t an exotic import or a new baby fuzzy creature.  Nope, the latest additions to the zoo are recycling containers.  The receptacles are for plastic bottles, aluminum cans, milk cartons, juice boxes, and more.

The Como Park Zoo is the initial test location of a pilot program that aims to put recycling containers in parks and public areas across the City of St. Paul. The city and Eureka Recycling have teamed up to create this pilot project.  If the recycling bins work out for a reasonable cost, Saint Paul could be a model for other cities.

The idea to put recycling bins in public areas arose during a community the St. Paul Environmental Roundtable in 2005. More and more people these days are utilizing on-the-go products, like plastic water bottles, but there isn’t often access to recycle bins in public.  As Eureka spokeswoman Dianna Kennedy puts it, "In St. Paul, people value recycling. But it needs to be more convenient."

So she drummed up about $80,000 in state and federal grants to explore ways to create a successful public recycling program.

And what a better place to test it out than the zoo?  The Como Park Zoo, which is operated by the City of Saint Paul, attracts about 1.7 million people each year.

The zoo kicked in about $8,000 for 10 containers, but they paid more than that.  To prepare for this experiment, the zoo had to research its garbage.  On certain days, trash was set aside for employees and volunteers to sort, looking for types of things people threw away what was recyclable.  They found a bunch of juice boxes, as visitors are allowed to bring food and drinks into the zoo.

On top of that, it's more complicated than just setting out containers and hoping people use them.  Zoo employees will monitor the containers to see what's going in them, to see how much is being recycled, determine whether or not people use them, and whether the service creates a cost benefit.

Mears Park in Lowertown will be a second test location.  That park will get recycling containers next spring. Public Art St. Paul is helping, with the hope of making the containers artistic in a way that reflects the creative community.

If all goes well, it could become a citywide service!

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