In 2015, the Houston Zoo removed plastic bags in the gift shops to protect animals in the wild. In 2017, the zoo-based conservation organization eliminated single-use plastic water bottles. As of March of 2018, the zoo has taken its third step in plastic reduction, removing single-use plastic straws from all concession stands on zoo grounds.
This move is a monumental achievement for the organization, as the Houston Zoo is among the first zoos and aquariums to eliminate these single-use consumer plastic items. Removing these single-use consumer plastics was made possible through a collaboration between the zoo and its retail, food and beverage partner, Service Systems Associates (SSA).
Because of the Houston Zoo’s commitment to conservation and its mission of inspiring action to save wildlife, the zoo will be able to prevent an estimated 80,000 plastic bags, 300,000 plastic bottles, and nearly 23,000 plastic straws from entering landfills and the environment each year. There is roughly 3.15 billion pounds of plastic in our oceans right now and the average American will add to this epidemic by throwing away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year. Wildlife like endangered sea turtles and other marine creatures often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their favorite foods, with tragic consequences. Reducing plastics keeps this type of trash out of our oceans and prevents harm to animals like sea turtles and other marine life.
“Removing single-use plastic items is a direct action to protect wildlife,” says Peter Riger, vice president of conservation and education. “The Houston Zoo is steadfast in its commitment to save animals and we encourage our visitors to join us in going single-use plastic free. Everyone that chooses to reduce their use of plastic is helping to protect wildlife.“
In zoo gift shops, guests can actively participate in saving wildlife by choosing to be completely bag-free, purchase reusable bags or use a tote brought from home. Guests have two choices when purchasing water at the zoo – an aluminum reusable water bottle (pre-filled with water) or a JUST Water recyclable, paper-based carton at any of the restaurants or kiosks. The carton itself is made of paper from certified forests and the plastic cap is made from sugarcane, making JUST Water cartons 100% recyclable. Across the park, water bottle refilling stations are available to refill JUST Water cartons, or any other reusable container, made possible by a partnership with Texas Plumbing Supply.