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How the Detroit Zoo converts manure into clean energy

Aug 27, 2018

An architectural rendering of the Detroit Zoo biodigester.
Credit Detroit Zoological Society

If zoos have a lot of one thing, it's manure.

That's why the Detroit Zoo turned to Michigan State University researcher Dana Kirk to help turn that manure into power.

Kirk uses an anaerobic digester to create clean energy from organic waste. Starting this fall, the Detroit Zoo will become the second zoo in the world to generate electricity from its manure.

Kirk is an assistant professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering at MSU, where he manages the Anaerobic Digestion Research and Education Center. He joined Stateside to explain more about the project.

Manure is often perceived only as something to get rid of, but Kirk is working to change that. He wants to alter how we view organic waste, and to create innovative ways to reuse it as a reliable energy resource.

"Instead of putting our food waste in garbage cans and throwing it out with the general trash, can we capture that material? Can we use it in a digester or at a compost facility?" Kirk asked. 

Listen above to hear what the anaerobic digester does, and how Kirk’s project is recycling material to create electricity at the Detroit Zoo.

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