After a simple start recycling only paper & aluminum cans in the late 80s, Shedd Aquarium can now boast that it keeps nearly 20 commodities from entering landfills.
The elements that make up single stream - plastic, glass and paper - are supplemented with printer cartridges, batteries & e-waste. Bales of OCC are picked up along with baled “Super Sacks.” Each of these large plastic bags contains 2250 pounds of Instant Ocean for the saltwater-mixing process; once emptied, the sacks are recycled.
Along “Recycling Row” in the basement, staff & volunteers leave unwanted clothing/textiles, lightbulbs & metal in bins for collection. Styrofoam is picked up for densifying. Nitrile, latex & rubber gloves used by Shedd departments are collected & shipped to TerraCycle along with Mylar-lined snack packages.
Partnering with Lakeshore Recycling Systems has increased the diversion rate to 80%, but through innovative strategies & initiatives, aquarium staff are eager to ramp up to at least 90% in the near future.
Outside of the aquarium’s daily operations, Shedd also works to inspire commitment & action from guests & the public to make conscious decisions to benefit the environment. On Earth Day 2017, the aquarium launched
Shedd the Straw
– a public awareness initiative encouraging people to refuse single-use plastic straws in place of more eco-friendly options. With 500 million plastic straws used every day in the US, this campaign highlights the damage these non-recyclable plastics can do to the environment. Since the launch of the program, Shedd has reached millions of people with this message % has partnered with more than 100 restaurants to replace straws with compostable options or eliminate them completely.
Through September 2018, Shedd guests can come face-to-face with the immensity of plastics that pollute our oceans, thanks to the traveling exhibit,
. Consisting of 19 massive sculptures made completely out of plastic collected from beaches, the installations highlight the sheer volume of plastic waste floating in our oceans & waterways. In the shape of beloved aquatic wildlife, the
sculptures are an art-inspired warning about the challenges that plastic pollution presents for the underwater world.
To learn more about the Shedd's commitment, visit the