New Tour Features Zoo Poo

Visitors explore Brookfield Zoo’s compost site

By Matt Bartosik
|  Monday, May 4, 2009  |  Updated 11:08 AM EDT
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The elephant can drop several hundred pounds of waste a day, and it all has to be cleaned up. But where does it all go?

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If picking up after your pooch seems like a laborious chore, try working at the zoo. The elephants alone drop up to 400 pounds of waste per day.

There isn't a plastic bag in the world that could pick that up. So just where does all that stuff go?

During Sunday's "Party for the Planet," Brookfield Zoo provided a special tram tour of the zoo's composting site. While riding "The Poop Train," visitors learned all about the 12-year-old suburban Chicago facility.

The large greenhouse is located just outside of the zoo's main area and encloses 7-foot-high mounds of leaves, plants, manure, and grass.

"The end result is very rich soil," Tim Chromzack, manager of grounds and custodial, told the Sun-Times. "Our goal is to really cut down on synthetic chemicals, and this compost is healthy and natural."

Healthy and natural, yes, but what about that smell?

The facility is provided with fresh air via tubes, and the exhaust contains a biofilter that eliminates the odor.

"The great thing is that anyone can compost at home with vegetable and yard waste," said Chromzack.

But keep your dog's doodoo in the plastic bag. Meat-eating animals' waste is not compost-friendly.

Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue, is grateful he doesn't have a dog--or an elephant--to clean up after.

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