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In Partnership with Service Systems Associates the Milwaukee County Zoo Reduces Plastic Use in Concessions & Merchandise Areas

SSA Plastic Initiative

Posted March 2020

The Milwaukee County Zoo, in conjunction with its concessions, merchandising and catering partner, Service Systems Associates (SSA), has announced an initiative to reduce its plastic use in its Concessions and Merchandise areas. It’s joining other zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to eliminate single-use plastic straws and shopping bags, and instead, offering reusable, more sustainable options.

Service Systems Associates’ vision aligns with the Zoo’s mission of conservation, and supports its overall goals. Together, they’re working to protect wildlife and their habitats, and striving to inspire and empower guests to do the same, by conserving resources for future generations.

Plastic straws and shopping bags are not accepted by most recycling programs because these items get tangled in recycling center equipment. These items often end up in aquatic habitats like rivers, lakes, and oceans, where they are ingested by and entangle wildlife. They are also among the most common items found during organized beach cleanups. Worldwide, mishandled plastic waste affects public health and has an economic impact on tourism, fisheries, and agriculture; these impacts cost billions of dollars annually.

Having plastic on-site also poses problems at the Zoo, with the potential of plastic straws and bags blowing into animal habitats, threatening the animals’ safety.

Each year, guests use tens of thousands of single-use plastic bags and straws in the Gift Shop and Concession areas. SSA is proud to roll-out new ways to reduce the Zoo’s environmental impact, by eliminating plastic straws for fountain soda and offering reusable bags in the Gift Shop.  Currently, the initiatives are in the transition stage, with the intent of a complete changeover by Earth Day – April 22.

Guests can join the efforts by choosing from several alternatives to single-use plastic:

SSA Plastic Initiative
Paper straws and souvenir cups with reusable straws.
  • Concession areas will offer paper straws anywhere plastic was previously offered.
  • Souvenir cups with reusable straws are available for $5.99. As a bonus,  guests can refill these cups for only $0.99.
  • The Zoo offers many beverage options in bottles and cans. These containers can be recycled in the Zoo’s 200+ recycling bins throughout the park.
  • The Gift Shop offers animal-inspired reusable totes made from recycled plastic for $2.99. By choosing an option made from recycled plastic, Zoo guests are supporting recycling programs.
SSA Plastic Initiative
Toy plushies made with repurposed and upcycled materials.

Further, SSA will continue its commitment of responsible purchasing by: working with toy manufacturers at a national level to eliminate plastic packaging from toys wherever possible; offering unique gift items made from repurposed and upcycled materials in the Gift Shop; offering plush animals with fill produced from PET plastics from recycled bottles; eliminating all Styrofoam products and bleached napkins in concession stands and dining areas, as Styrofoam is non-recyclable and non-biodegradable.

The Zoo and SSA are excited to continue to promote sustainability with these new initiatives.

For more information on these initiatives and the Zoo’s existing sustainable practices, call the Zoo’s Marketing and Communications division at 414.256.5466.