Visitors to the Toronto Zoo may not think about the massive piles of manure that the rhinos produce, but Deserrai Buunksure does.
It’s part her job to collect it. It’s also physically demanding work.
Buunktold CBC Toronto said, “At this point we’re sitting at 500 to 600 lbs in a day.” That’s more that 225 kilograms.
Buunk, a Grade 3 keeperin in the zoo’s African Savanna area, is more than just collecting poop. She also cares for the animals, observes their behavior and spends time with them.
All the dung she’s dealing with has a purpose.
WATCH: The Toronto Zoo turns poop into power to help the environment
As part of a project more than 10 years in the making, afacilitycalledZooSharestarted producing power for 250 homesthis year. It is located at the zoo and uses 15,000 tonnes of local waste annually to produce electricity. It also produces heat and fertilizer.
Kyla Greenham, manager of conservation programmes and environment at Toronto Zoo, said that it is part the zoo’s sustainability platform to reduce its energy use and greenhouse gasemissions.
She stated, “With over 55,000 animals, we produce a lot if manure every single year.”
“By diverting our animal manure to the Bio-digester, we not only try to reduce the amount we produce each year but also create a renewable energy source that will power the Ontario Hydro grid.”
Greenham said that the idea was first suggested by the zoo in 2007.
“We’re extracting value when others see waste”
Daniel Bida, one the founders of ZooShare, says the manure comes from the zoo every day.
“Theybring the dumptruck here that collects from all of the animal enclosures, and they leave it there where our operator takes it and drops it into our receiving tanks,” he said.
“There, it’s mixed with commercial food waste we get from grocery stores, restaurants and event halls, and companies.”
Bida states that the organic streams are combined and go into a digestion tank for 24 hours where they make biogas, a mixture of methane gas and other gases used to produce electricity. After digestion is complete, organic matter is put into a storage tank and used as fertilizer in Rouge Park. He claims the process is self-sufficient.
“The heat that is generated by burning the gas to produce electricity is used to keep the whole thing going.”
Bida offers tours of the plant to the public and says that this is one of his favorite parts of the job.
To expand the project, he hopes to add a second digester tank to the site.
“We extract value where others see waste; that’s why I love biogas in general.”