I have big, fantastic news to share. The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk has come out as a leader in the Zero Waste Movement by taking significant steps to reduce its use of single-use plastics. According to a press release, drinking straws are gone from the cafeteria and theater concessions, plastic bottled water is no longer for sale, and food containers and plasticware have been replaced with biodegradable substitutes. Plush animals, once filled with plastic beads, no longer pose that environmental hazard. Toys aren’t wrapped in cellophane and you’ll have to bring our own reusable bag because they aren’t using plastic bags anymore.
Plastics are pervasive in the consumer world, and – by going through this process – we understand first-hand how hard it is to divest of its use,” said Dr. Brian Davis, president of The Maritime Aquarium. “However, the issue of plastics in the environment is a serious concern. Recycling is not enough. I am proud of the lengths that our staff – and the staffs of CulinArt, our on-site catering company, and Event Network, our gift-shop operator – have gone through to help in our elimination of single-use plastics from The Maritime Aquarium.
The Zero Waste movement has taken off globally and we are embracing it in Fairfield County, and beyond.
Won’t You Join the Zero Waste Movement?
Single-Use Plastics Are a Luxury We Can No Longer Afford
Waste of every kind is damaging our planet and compromising our ability to remain living on it.
Single-use plastics are one of the easiest types of waste to avoid, and eliminating them makes a huge impact.
Plastic does not biodegrade the way food and paper do; it breaks down into micro and nano plastics that persist in the environment and release toxic chemicals.
Fish, turtles, seals, whales and birds think it’s food, and eating it causes digestive system blockage and eventual death.
Before the plastics industry took off, we didn’t have plastic straws, bottles or bags. We easily lived without them, and we can do it again.
- Plastic straws cannot be recycled, yet our country uses 500 million a day.
- Plastic water bottles can be recycled, but most of the 50 Billion Americans use annually are not. Billions are thrown in the garbage and end up being buried in landfills or incinerated. Or they are left behind where they litter our roadways and waterways.
- Plastic bags, just like all petroleum-derived plastics, do not biodegrade, but can be recycled at certain retailers. Recycling rates are low. Instead bags wind up in our oceans to the detriment of sea life, which we can end up eating.
Pledge to Go Zero Single Use Plastic Bags, Bottles and Straws
1) Don’t buy plastic straws and ask food establishment not to put a straw in your drink unless it’s paper, bamboo or otherwise compostable. If you really feel the need to use a straw, carry your own metal straw.
2) Decline any plastic bags offered to you at point of sale. Bring your own reusable bag, even for the drug store or restaurant take out. Put some in your car, backpack, pocketbook, etc. so you always have one handy. Reusable bags are machine washable. Recycle any plastic bags in your home or place of business at participating supermarkets.
3) Do not buy or accept plastic bottled water. Carry a thermos filled with water, and ask any establishment to refill it when you run out. If you forget your thermos, ask them for a paper cup instead with no lid or straw.
If the Aquarium Can Eliminate Single-Use Plastics, So Can You
In the Aquarium’s Cascade Café, catered by CulinArt Group, nearly all single-use plastic has been eliminated. CulinArt Group is no newcomer to sustainability practices. According to their website, their sustainability programs are based on a continuous cycle of research, reflection, improvement, and communication. It’s great to know their program is being implemented at the Aquarium, a organization dedicated to inspiring people to appreciate and protect the Long Island Sound ecosystem and the global environment through living exhibits, marine science, and environmental education.
Zero Waste Changes Include:
- All straws and plastic soda-cup lids are eliminated. Even paper straws are not offered.
- Water is now sold in paper boxes, instead of in plastic bottles.
- Sodas in the Café, and also in the IMAX Theater concessions stand, are sold in aluminum cans. Juices and teas now are sold as boxed drinks and in glass bottles.
- Coffee cups and soup cups are now made out of a paper coated with polylactic acid (PLA), which is produced from renewable resources such as corn and sugarcane, instead of petroleum.
- Plates and the containers for hamburgers all made of a sugar-based paper.
- Coffee-cup lids, knives, forks, spoons, salad containers and specialty-sandwich containers are made from a biodegradable cornstarch-based plastic.
- Ketchup, mustard and other condiments are available only in large pump containers, for adding into small biodegradable paper cups. Gone are little plastic squeeze packets.
- Cookies and candies are sold in biodegradable cellophane.
We are happy to support The Maritime Aquarium’s efforts to shape public behavior around conservation and the harmful use of plastics,” said Darren Zaldo, director of dining services for CulinArt. “We have heard nothing but positive responses from guests when we explain, for example, why they can’t have a straw or a lid for their soda.
Show your support for the Aquarium’s Zero Waste leadership by liking and sharing this post on Sustainne’s Facebook page, commenting below, and visiting the aquarium and their large display explaining the issue of plastic pollution in the oceans.
Join the Zero Waste Movement by Pledging to Go Zero Single Use Plastic Bags, Bottles and Straws. Comment below or on our Facebook page to share your progress with the Sustainne community!
Learn more about The Maritime Aquarium, its exhibits and its conservation programs at www.maritimeaquarium.org.
Analiese Paik is the CEO of Sustainne and a longtime sustainability advocate and activist.