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Long Beach Aquarium Eliminating Plastic Bags And Straws For 2 Million Yearly Visitors

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Photo by Bob Kent via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
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Long Beach's Aquarium of the Pacific has joined 18 aquariums nationwide in significantly reducing their plastic waste. According to the aquarium, beginning Monday, the institution has eliminated plastic bags and straws, and has pledged to greatly reduce or eliminate plastic bottles by the end of 2020.

“The Aquarium of the Pacific is a trusted source of science-based information on the ocean and environment in our region," Jerry Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific's president and CEO, said in a statement. "It is our aim to provide our visitors with practical things they can do as ocean stewards in their communities. We are proud to be joining with aquariums across the country to promote ocean conservation.”

"Plastics in the oceans are a behavioral problem," Schubel continued to LAist. "If we can raise the awareness of what plastics are doing to marine life, we think we can change people's behaviors."

The Long Beach aquarium sees nearly two million visitors annually, and over 20 million people visit at least one of the 19 aquariums involved in the campaign—including the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Central California, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and the New York Aquarium in New York City.

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Alongside overfishing, plastics in the world's oceans are a major threat to marine life. According to National Geographic, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of some 7.7 million square miles of the Pacific littered with about two million bits of microplastic per square mile (you do the math—that's a lot of plastic). When fish and other ocean animals consume the plastics, it piles in their intestines and eventually kills them.

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Animation via Aquarium of the Pacific
"Actually, we believe 90% of the plastics in the world's oceans come from Asia," Schubel told LAist. "So, once we establish this program here, we hope we can partner with aquariums in Asia."

As the Long Beach aquarium notes in a press release, the 19 participating aquariums are also backing local, state, and national policies to stop the flow of plastics into the world's oceans, lakes, and rivers. All California aquariums involved in the plastic reduction program signed on to the state's single-use plastic bag ban in 2014, and are now behind a push to ban plastic straws.

“As leaders in aquatic conservation, aquariums are expected to walk their talk, and that’s exactly what this partnership is meant to do,” John Racanelli, CEO of the National Aquarium, said in a statement. “We are uniquely qualified to set an example for others—in reducing our plastic footprint, encouraging sustainable operating practices, and inspiring hope in a public that is hungry to be part of the solution. We’re right where we should be.”

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The Aquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way in Long Beach. (562) 590-3100

H/T: Long Beach Press Telegram