Mans’ Scrap Becomes Monkeys’ Treasure

Curbell Plastics donates scrap UHMW to Phoenix Zoo for primate exhibits

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Beth Summers
Curbell Plastics, Inc.
716-667-3377 x7439

Orchard Park, N.Y., July 14, 2020 – Curbell Plastics, Inc., one of the nation’s top suppliers of plastic sheet, rod, tube, tapes, and fabricated parts, takes sustainability seriously. Their people always look for opportunities to recycle, reuse, and reduce plastic scrap and waste. Recently, a unique opportunity came along that enabled Curbell’s Phoenix location to act on that philosophy.

Phoenix Zoo UHMW feeder box design for cotton top tamarins and squirrel monkeys (courtesy of Curbell Plastics).
Phoenix Zoo UHMW feeder box design for cotton top tamarins and squirrel monkeys.

Jackie Hensley, a primate keeper from the Phoenix Zoo, wanted to build the cotton top tamarins and squirrel monkeys cognitive enrichment foraging boxes. “Foraging feeders are one of many types of enrichment we use at the Zoo,” Jackie said, “we give enrichment to our animals every day which brings out varied and natural behaviors you would see in the wild, and it keeps the animals active and thinking throughout the day.” She decided to reach out to area businesses to see if any would be interested in donating materials to the Zoo.

Cotton top tamarin interacting with feeder box made from a Curbell Plastics UHMW sheet donation.
Cotton top tamarin interacting with feeder box made from a Curbell Plastics UHMW sheet donation.

When Curbell Plastics Phoenix Business Manager Rich Ineson received an email from Jackie, two sheets of very tough, unfilled, UHMW scrap material of differing sizes came to mind. Rich connected with Jackie to confirm the zoo’s specifications: the material needed to be durable enough to withstand daily physical abuse by the monkeys—such as knocking it to the ground or chewing on it—but not so thick it would be difficult to machine. He offered her the sheets which she eagerly accepted and made arrangements to pick up. By the end of the week the UHMW sheets were in the Zoo’s machine shop.

Several weeks later, and shortly before his official retirement date, Rich received an email with photos of the first completed set of feeder boxes made from the donated UHMW. The Zoo machined long rectangular boxes with sliding tongue and groove end caps and hand holes drilled along the sides. The tops were secured with large screw eye bolts so the feeders could be hung lengthwise along branches. Because UHMW is a tough material, there is little concern that the feeders will corrode, splitter, or rot, therefore delivering many years of use to the Zoo.

“With the generous donation of plastic sheets from Curbell Plastics to our Phoenix Zoo primate department, we were able to make nine foraging box feeders for our squirrel monkeys and cotton top tamarins,” Jackie reported to Curbell Plastics in May 2020, “We can put shredded paper, hay, paper bags or newspaper in the plastic feeders along with some of the monkeys’ daily diet or a favored food item like raisins, peanuts or grapes. The animals reach their hand into the holes and dig through or pull out the paper products to find their food. In the wild, animals search and forage for their food and we try to recreate that environment for our animals. We are able to move the feeders throughout the habitats, allowing the animals to search for them. The animals like the challenge of new enrichment items and seeing what is inside. Guests also enjoy learning about and watching the animals interact with the enrichment items.”

The squirrel monkey exhibit is an open-air habitat which the public can walk through while the monkeys climb trees in front of guests and walk across ropes over their heads. The Phoenix Zoo is home to the only walk-through squirrel monkey habitat in the United States. “It makes giving enrichment a lot of fun for us as keepers, because the animals will come out of the trees to the enrichment and the guests get a great view of the monkeys using natural behaviors.” Jackie wrote, “Our cotton top tamarins are extremely active and putting out enrichment for them is always enjoyable because they are so curious. The monkeys weigh about one pound, so the guests getting to see these small primates up close in their habitat is very exciting.”

Curbell Plastics is honored to see material reused in such a meaningful and responsible way. Curbell was happy for the opportunity to act on our Environmental Pledge, which includes (but is not limited to) reducing waste and pollution, optimizing the use of energy and materials, and investing in our community. For more information about our commitment to sustainability and combating climate change, visit our Sustainability Initiatives page.

About Curbell Plastics, Inc.

Curbell Plastics grew into one of the nation’s top plastic materials suppliers by investing for the long term and focusing foremost on the needs of its customers — a strategy that has set the company apart since its founding in 1942.

Curbell supplies performance plastics — durable and lightweight materials that minimize energy consumption and add value to countless commercial and industrial applications — to thousands of businesses, entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. The company also offers plastic film, adhesives, sealants, tapes, prototyping and tooling materials, and fabricated plastic parts. Its innovative services include a nationwide team of material experts to help customers solve engineering and application challenges.

Curbell Plastics, a privately held subsidiary of Curbell, Inc., has 21 locations nationwide and is based in Orchard Park, New York. It has ISO 9001 certification for eight of its locations and its corporate headquarters, and it maintains ITAR and EAR compliance company-wide.

About the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation

The Arizona Center for Nature Conservation (ACNC) operates the Phoenix Zoo. The ACNC advances the stewardship and conservation of animals and their habitats while providing experiences that inspire people and motivate them to care for the natural world.

The Phoenix Zoo is the only zoo in the Valley accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is a non-profit zoological park, serving nearly 1.4 million guests annually. The Zoo is home to more than 3,000 animals, many of which are endangered and threatened species. For information about the Phoenix Zoo, visit