Let’s bag the bag: what’s your #FirstStep toward a plastic-free future?

The bag monster and one of our volunteer divers sharing why everyone should #BYOBag.
The bag monster and one of our volunteer divers sharing why everyone should #BYOBag.

Many of us have heard about the growing problem around single-use plastics and at the Aquarium we are committed to how we can take positive steps toward making a difference! Unfortunately the statistics are staggering. Globally we are now producing almost 300 million tons of plastics every year, with more than half of that being “single use.”

Single use means plastic that is used just once before it is discarded. Plastics have become so pervasive that more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our ocean each year—that’s a dump truck worth of plastic being dumped into the ocean every minute!

The Aquarium has championed eliminating the use of plastic straws through the #StrawlessInSeattle and #StopSucking campaigns. We have even walked the talk by removing single-use plastics in our own Aquarium Café and reducing plastics in our gift store. Now we are taking our next step by helping introduce new legislation in Washington that would address plastic pollution by getting rid of single-use plastic carryout bags in grocery and other retail stores statewide, encouraging consumers to #BYOBag.

Coalition members announcing reusable bag legislation at the Seattle Aquarium
Coalition members announcing reusable bag legislation at the Seattle Aquarium.

The reusable bag legislation was recently announced at the Aquarium by Senator Kevin Ranker and Representative Strom Peterson, in partnership with Kent City Councilwoman Brenda Fincher and a coalition of organizations that include: Environment Washington, Puget Soundkeeper, Seattle Aquarium, Surfrider Foundation, Zero Waste Washington, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo, and Northwest Grocery Association. The proposed law will build off 23 existing local ordinances already in place that have banned plastic bags in their communities.

So why eliminate plastic bags? A commonly quoted statistic is that plastic bags are used for about 12 minutes and are among the top 10 most common items found in coastal clean-ups in Washington and around the world. They pose a huge operational and contamination problem at recycling facilities, requiring workers to cut the bags out of clogged machines every day.

Plastic pollution also harms wildlife in the ocean, in rivers, and on the surrounding lands. A 2016 study published in Marine Policy revealed that plastic bags rated second (after discarded fishing gear) as the most problematic plastic pollution for marine animals, particularly seabirds, turtles, and mammals. For example, 1 million seabirds and over a 100 thousand marine mammals are killed each year from plastic pollution (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). Let that sink in for a minute…

The good news is we can still reverse this trend—but each of us needs to take our own #FirstStep toward limiting our personal consumption of single-use plastics. The proposed plastic bag legislation will be up for consideration during the 2019 legislative session that starts this January. We will make sure to keep you updated on how it progresses but we hope everyone will take a moment to consider how they can take personal steps to keep plastic out of our ocean.

Also stay tuned in the for our #FirstStep plastic challenge so you can join us in reducing single-use plastics!

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