By Ric Urban, Senior Biologist
Can you imagine a day when there is more plastic in the Oceans than fish and other marine life?
Newport Aquarium has joined 18 other aquariums around the country in a new initiative to “stand up” and take a stance against plastic pollution and our society’s dependency on single-use plastics. Monterey Bay Aquarium, Shedd Aquarium and the National Aquarium are the founders of this movement that invited Newport Aquarium to join other notable aquariums across the United States in this collaboration known as the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) in 2016.
This summer’s campaign is called “In Our Hands” and the mission is to encourage our guests and our communities to reduce their plastic use and find alternatives. The ACP is setting a goal to eliminate or reduce plastic beverage bottles in our respective institutions by 2020.
Each member has already eliminated plastic straws and single-use bags, and intends to “significantly reduce or eliminate” other plastics over the next few years. Our Aquariums want to set the example in our communities that we are concerned and want to make a difference.
The members of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership are also members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). More than180 million visitors visit zoos and aquariums each year and our aquariums have a responsibility to educate of visitors of the dangers of plastic pollution and the effects it has on our freshwater and marine environments. New studies have shown more than 8 million tons of plastic finds its way into the ocean every year and the number is expected to double by 2025. In the United States alone, plastic waste averages more than 200 pounds per person each year. The Aquarium Conservation Partnership members are not only raising awareness about plastic pollution, promoting behavioral changes with our guests, but also working with business partners and vendors to share good alternatives to single-use plastics and introduce new products and materials.
Our choices are transforming the ocean, lakes, and rivers
Change takes time
You can help make a difference. Every time you go to the grocery store and every time you drink a bottle of water or soda. By changing to a re-useable water bottle, you’re making a healthy change in your personal lifestyle and making a life-saving contribution to our planet. Last year, the U.S. used about 50 billion plastic water bottles; that is nearly 200 per person.
Where do all these water bottles go? Are they recycled? Studies say no. Only 23 percent of the plastic bottles were recycled, meaning this plastic was ending up in our landfills or in our waterways.
It is time for all of us to “accept the challenge” to reduce our dependency on single-source plastics. Here’s what you can do:
- Ask for paper bags at the grocery store or bring your own re-useable tote bags
- Skip the Straw at places you eat. Ask the staff not to bring straws to you or put them in your drinks.
- Drink your beer from the tap or buy beer in growlers at the store. This reduces your use of cans and bottles and less recycling.
- Start using a re-useable water bottle.
- Reduce, Re-Use, and Recycle – every little bit helps
Join Newport Aquarium and the Aquarium Conservation Partners in making this change to “Save Wild Animals and Save Wild Spaces.” Take pictures and tell us how you’re doing your part and we’ll share them on social media. Remember to use #InOurHands with your posts.
For more information on the “In Our Hands” campaign, visit: www.ourhands.org.
About Ric: Ric has more than 30 years experience working in AZA-accredited institutions. He will be presenting in two sessions at the upcoming 2017 AZA Annual Conference: Consume for Conservation and Using Innovative Science to Refine Conservation Actions. Ric is the Project Coordinator for the AZA SAFE African Penguin Individual Identification Program. He also holds a seat on the AZA African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) and Penguin Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) Steering Committees, and is a member of the AZA’s Animal Welfare Committee.