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5 Weird and Wonderful Animal Recyclers

Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. Why should we recycle? To help the environment prevent global warming, pollution, and extinction of plants and animals.

Many animals are also great at recycling; perhaps we can learn a thing or two.

Hermit Crabs

As the hermit crab grows, the small shell is abandoned in favour of a larger home. One empty shell can trigger a "property rush" as crabs gather to investigate. Shells of all shapes and sizes are discarded and passed down the housing chain to smaller individuals. Reusing at its best!


During mating season, bowerbirds create bowers to attract females. Bowers are architectural masterpieces created with sticks, rocks and pebbles. The male then decorates his creation with bits and pieces he finds, often recycling human waste, including plastic, glass and foil.

Fun Fact: Different bowerbird species favour different colours. The satin bowerbird decorates with blue items.


Detritivores are animals that consume decomposing organic material, contributing to the recycling of nutrients. We have a few detritivores in the ZooLab team, including millipedes.

Most millipedes eat decaying leaves and other dead plant matter, moisturising the food with secretions and then scraping it with jaws. All in all, they play a vital role in the recycling of nutrients improving soil quality and fertility.


We know that our oceans face a huge garbage issue! With marine litter increasing and shells and other natural marine decreasing, octopuses have to recycle our marine debris to survive, using our waste as shelter, camouflage and tools.


Waxworms are "plastivores" - plastic-eating organisms that eat or break down plastic. Brandon University found that waxworms can survive on polyethylene, and 60 can eat more than 30cm2 of a plastic bag in less than a week. Due to the scale and harmful bioproducts, waxworms may not solve our plastic problem, but they have created a new lead for scientists to follow in searching for a solution.

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