Working to reduce the massive amount of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, 21 of the nation’s top aquariums today will announce that they are phasing out most plastic products — from plastic bags to straws to plastic beverage bottles.
The effort, which will also include the creation of exhibits explaining how people can find alternatives to plastic, is an attempt to raise consumer awareness among the 20 million people who visit the 21 aquariums, which include Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and San Francisco’s Steinhart Aquarium.
“The target of the campaign is single-use, disposable plastic,” said Claire Atkinson, spokeswoman for the Long Beach aquarium. “(We) have committed to eliminating plastic bags and plastic drinking straws as of Monday.”
Additionally, they plan to “significantly reduce plastic beverage bottles by December 2020,” she said.
Expect to see fountain beverages and signs encouraging visitors to bring their own reusable water bottles.
The aquariums say their goal is a market-based approach that they hope will steer the buying habits of the public to change the vast supply chains that manufacture, deliver and sell products to businesses across the world.
Warning against plastic pollution is nothing new at Long Beach’s aquarium, which has long hosted anti-pollution education programs, encouraged phasing out plastic drinking bottles and sponsored events at which only reusable containers are welcome.
The aquariums compare the campaign to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s highly successful “Seafood Watch” program, which has provided 57 million wallet-sized cards to shoppers since 1999 telling them which types of fish are best or worst to buy based on a green-yellow-red scale.
As consumer demand changed, that program contributed to Walmart, Target, Safeway, Whole Foods and many of the largest retail stores in the United States announcing that they would sell only seafood caught in sustainable ways that didn’t lead to overfishing.
“The market can be very powerful,” said Ken Peterson, a spokesman for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Meanwhile, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium officials said they are doing their part in San Pedro.
Aquarium officials bought silverware to use at functions rather than plastic utensils. They also encourage visitors to bring their own water bottles, said Director Mike Schaadt.
“Waste plastic that is not being recycled (which is most of the waste plastic) is causing greater and greater impact to inhabitants of the ocean,” Schaadt said.
“We are trying to phase out as much plastic as possible, but we struggle with the same issues that individuals face and that is that plastic is almost ubiquitous,” Schaadt said. “We are continuing to find alternatives to plastics in our attempts to become more sustainable in our institution. And we will continue to encourage our visitors to do the same.”