We’ve seen the viral pictures and videos of plastic and trash washing up on beach shoreline across the world, and our very own Bayfront.
Plastic pollution is considered one of the worst threats to our oceans. About 8.8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean each year worldwide – roughly a dump truck full of plastic every minute of every day. In the United States alone, plastic waste averages more than 200 pounds per person each year. And if nothing changes, by 2025 the flow of plastic into the ocean is expected to double.
The Texas State Aquarium took on a partnership with the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP). TSA is one of 19 top U.S. aquariums working to drive a shift away from single-use plastic among their visitors, in their communities and beyond. The Aquarium has already completed major plastic reduction initiatives includes eliminating plastic beverage bottles, lids, straws and bags.
“Years ago we got rid of plastic straws, so long ago we don’t even remember when,” says Leslie Peart, the TSA’s vice president of education and conservation.
Visitors to the Aquarium may not even notice the lack of plastic, as eco-friendly products serve the same purpose as plastic items without endangering the environment. Boxed Water, a BPA-free, biodegradable alternative to bottled water, is available for purchase throughout the Aquarium. Pepsi Shoreline Grill, the Aquarium’s on-site restaurant, has no plastic lids – using refillable cups instead – and no plastic straws; plant-based biodegradable straws are used instead. Through educational exhibits and signage, Aquarium guests are encouraged to adopt a plastic-free or plastic-reduced lifestyle themselves, by recycling, reusing or even outright eliminating single-use plastic. Small actions like using reusable grocery bags, choosing glass bottles or reusable containers over plastic bottles, and shopping for plastic-free products are all ways guests can tackle Plastic Free July and make a difference.
While reducing the use of plastic is the best long-term solution, the Aquarium also takes action to remove existing plastic pollution, including removing hundreds of tons of marine debris from local beaches through several Adopt-A-Beach cleanups. Guests are also encouraged to pick up waste they find on the beach to help prevent marine debris.
Altogether, these plastic-free initiatives and lessons deliver a powerful message to the more than half a million guests that visit the Aquarium each year; by using our collective voices and our buying power, the solution to plastic pollution is in all of our hands, and with everyone’s participation, a plastic-free and eco-friendly future is within reach.
To learn more about plastic pollution and the Aquarium Conservation Partnership, visit www.ourhands.org or www.texasstateaquarium.org/conserve.
At 165,000 straws per year, TSA has eliminated at least 675,000 straws from the single-use plastic stream.
TSA has also calculated that including its TGLO coastal cleanups, adopted beach at Packery, and staff beach cleanups, it has been responsible for removing 10 tons of trash from our beaches and wetlands each year.