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Introducing Green Pawprints - Promoting sustainability at RZSS

05/04/2018 in RZSS

Above: Make sure you head to Penguin Coffee Shop to check out our range of VegWare! And remember to place your empty cups in the food waste bin.

We are very excited to be launching our new sustainability campaign at RZSS - #GreenPawprints - designed to inform and engage people about how we are aiming to reduce our environmental impact and share ideas for what our audience can do out home. This Easter we are focusing on the problem of single use plastics.

We will be kicking off the campaign with three events across both parks, starting with the launch of the very first Reverse Vending Machine within a visitor attraction! What is a Reverse vending machine I hear you ask … well …

A reverse vending machine or deposit return system means that you pay a wee bit extra when you buy a drink and get this money back when you return the bottle for recycling. Many people in Scotland will fondly remember doing this with their glass bottles of Irn Bru! But modern deposit return systems, like those which you will see in countries like Norway, Estonia and Lithuania, are highly efficient systems that cover most drinks containers, and see return rates of up to 95%! On 5th September, last year, Nicola Sturgeon announced that the Scottish Government will “design and introduce a deposit return system for drinks containers”. An astounding 16 million plastic bottles end up in the environment every day in the UK, and a deposit return scheme within Scotland is estimated to increase recycling rates from less than 50% to more than 90% within the first two years. This is great news for Scotland and our recycling.

We have been lucky enough to be given access again to the Reverse Vending Machine (RVM) which was previously used in the Education Centre couple of years ago. The Sustainability team have been working with Have You Got the Bottle campaign and Marine Conservation Society to install the RVM in a more prominent location in Edinburgh Zoo and help spread the important message of recycling plastics. The RVM is now situated with Edinburgh Zoo’s Penguin Café and will be launching on Monday 2nd of April. To reward our visitors for recycling their bottles in the RVM, you will receive a receipt which entitles you to 10pence off your next hot drink from any of our food outlets. On your next visit make sure you head down to Penguin Café to recycle your plastic bottles!!!

Above: Reverse vending machine which was featured on the ITV Tonight programme - Plastic: Can you live without it?

In conjunction with the launch of the RVM, the RZSS Green Teams at Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park will be showcasing plastic sculptures created by staff, re-using lantern structures from The Giant Lanterns of China festival held at Edinburgh Zoo over the Winter period, and plastic collected from recycling stations around the parks.

Above left: Giant lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo, Above Right: Some of the plastic waste collected at the Zoo used to make the sculptures.

Both the Green Team and the volunteer group, Wildlife Wombles, at the Highland Wildlife Park have been busy filling two of the polar bears with plastic bottles. With our resident female polar bear, Victoria, giving birth to the first polar bear cub in the UK for 25 years, it is so important to highlight how plastic affects not only animals living in our seas but also land based species around the globe that rely on the sea for food. Scientists have recently discovered large pieces of plastic floating amongst sea ice and embedded within icebergs in the Arctic, which increases the likelihood of animals in this habit ingesting plastic. We hope our polar bear sculptures can play a part in highlighting the threat to these incredible animals and emphasise how important it is to ensure your plastic bottles are being recycled.

Above: The finished sculptures, Pedro the plastic penguin, Vicky Vegware and the plastic polar bears at Highland Wildlife Park.

In addition to the polar bear scuplture, Edinburgh Zoo will be introducing 'Pedro' the Plastic Penguin, who is covered in waste plastic collected at the Zoo, such as bottles, food trays and coffee cup lids. Pedro will be joined by 'Vicky' the VegWare Penguin, who demonstrates our shift to compostable products in all our catering facilities. VegWare is an innovative alternative to disposable catering packaging and utensils which have a low carbon footprint, and are made from plants not plastic. All can be composted with food waste within 12 weeks.  By switching to a biodegradable alternative to plastic, Vicky the VegWare Penguin has saved 3.52kg of carbon, 1.93kg of virgin material and diverted 3.23kg of waste from landfill!

All our sculptures will be on display during the Easter holidays with information on why they were created and key facts and figures about plastic use in Scotland. Visitors will also learn what they can do to help in the fight against plastic.

Edinburgh Zoo, collaborating with Have You Got The Bottle, will also be re-purposing a rhino transportation crate into a “Rhino Recycling Centre” where Zoo visitors will be encouraged to recycle their plastic bottles into the crate, to see how much we can recycle over the Easter period. Have You Got The Bottle staff will be on site to talk with visitors about Deposit Return Schemes, highlighting how much discarded plastic can found on Scottish beaches and landscapes, and how vital recycling of single use plastic is to our planet's future.

With all these activities going on over the next couple of weeks, you may be asking how you can help reduce the plastic impact on our environment. Here are just a few ideas which you can do at home to help save our planet from plastic:

  • - Start using reusable water bottles and coffee cups
  • - Remember your reusable shopping bag when heading to the shops
  • - Pack your lunch in a reusable container
  • - Make or buy beeswax wrap to use in place of cling film
  • - Start growing your own veggies – a windowsill can be a fantastic indoor garden!


We hope that have provided a bit of inspiration for how you can join in the fight against plastic waste. Join in the conversation online, share your own ideas and follow our progress using #GreenPawprints and #PawsVsPlastic.

Until next time


RZSS Sustainability Advisor


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