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Zoos and aquariums celebrate and educate through Plastic Free July

Zoos and aquariums celebrate and educate through Plastic Free July
July 18, 2019

The Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) has advised that zoos and aquariums across Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia have been celebrating Plastic Free July with educational exhibits, pledges and new plastic reduction initiatives.

Plastic Free July is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution. The aim is to help contribute to a cleaner world - with cleaner streets and oceans.

Zoos and aquariums have developed opportunities to creatively engage with their large number of visitors each day on reducing their plastic use. Many initiatives include signage and installations.

Brooklands Zoo in New Zealand (above) is encouraging their visitors to refuse to use plastic by showing people some of plastic-free alternatives they can use in everyday life to reduce their waste.

The Michel Corbasson Zoological and Forest Park in New Caledonia (below) has set up an installation for Plastic Free July. The import of single use plastics will be soon be banned in New Caledonia, whose coral reef were declared as World Heritage twelve years ago. The Park are raising local awareness about the importance of this ban, ocean pollution by plastics and the impact on New Caledonia’s coral reef.


This park was created to guarantee the protection of one of the last parcels of dry forest in the city of Nouméa. It is home to the only collection of live terrestrial animals in New Caledonia.The animal collection includes several endemic species from New Caledonia. Birds, lizards and endemic mammals are presented to visitors. Some remarkable species: the cagou (Rhynochetos jubatus), the dogfish (Pteropus ornatus), the Caledonian crow (Corvus moneduloïdes),and the giant Leach gecko (Rhacodactylus leachinus).

To raise awareness of the movement and showcase the negative impact of plastic pollution, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium replaced a tank of jellyfish, with plastic that was collected from Sydney Harbour and revealed it to stunned guests.

Chris Brown, Head of Curatorial at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium advised "plastic is everywhere and it’s silently choking our planet and wildlife.

“Plastic doesn’t decompose, so if we don’t make an effort to reduce our plastic footprint, then by 2050 - there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Sadly, marine animals in the wild often mistake plastic for food, which can cause major digestive problems and even kill them.

“A plastic bag could easily be mistaken for a jellyfish - and this happens to be a turtle’s favourite food. For the month of July, we’re displaying rubbish collected from Sydney Harbour in one of the jellyfish tanks at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium so that our guests can see first-hand how a turtle could mistake this for food,” added Brown.

SEA LIFE Sydney is also helping guests reduce their plastic use during the month of July by offering a free coffee to all guests that have their own reusable coffee cup with them.

Penguins, Elephants, Kangaroos, Meerkats and Gibbons were among the variety of animals treated to a fun bubble blowing experience with zookeepers at Zoos Victoria who blew bubbles to mark the start of Plastic Free July.

The bubbly fun aims to raise awareness about Zoos Victoria’s conservation program Bubbles not Balloons, which asks the public to replace outdoor balloons, which is the deadliest type of plastic for Australian sea birds, with wildlife-friendly alternatives.

Other zoos have taken Plastic Free July as an opportunity to advance their sustainability initiatives at their business. The National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra marked the event by cutting down their single-use plastics even further. While they already use bio-pack cups, paper straws and paper plates, their keepers are now also using landfill-biodegradable bags for daily operations.

Taronga Conservation Society have taken some bold steps to eliminate single-use plastics across both their zoos. They have removed plastic items such as food containers, plastic cutlery, bags, straws, coffee cups, sauce sachets, soft drinks, PET bottles and balloons.

In total, they have recycled over two million containers to date through onsite ‘Return and Earn‘ reverse vending machines allowing guests and the local community to divert recyclable containers from landfill.

Taronga staff came together to make their own personal pledges for Plastic Free July, acting as leaders for the community.

To access the Taronga offer the ‘Litter Free Toolkit’ for businesses and schools to make a change for wildlife go to taronga.org.au/litter-free-oceans/

For more information on the Zoos and Aquarium Association go to www.zooaquarium.org.au/

Bottles, cans and cartons make up a large proportion of the litter on our streets, beaches and green spaces. Tackling the problem costs NSW millions of dollars every year. Return and Earn delivers a way for everyone to help solve the litter problem and be rewarded for their efforts. For more information on Return and Earn go to returnandearn.org.au/. 

Images top: SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium installation for Plastic Free July; and above -Brooklands Zoo in New Zealand; The Michel Corbasson Zoological and Forest Park in New Caledonia; Zookeeper Sam De lesi blows bubbles for Kangaroos at Melbourne Zoo,Credit Zoos Victoria; The National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra initiative; and Taronga Conservation Society.

Related Articles

17th July 2019 - Cairns initiative sees discarded plastic straws recycled into park seating

30th June 2019 - Wellington lifeguard encourages poolgoers to refill during Plastic Free July

17th June 2019 - Taronga Zoo launches ‘Litter Free Rivers’ campaign

30th April 2019 - Zoos Victoria ban all single-use plastics 

19th November 2018 - Airlie Beach Festival of Music goes plastic free

28th May 2018 - Zoos and aquariums look to reduce plastic waste

29th January 2018 - Far North Queensland tourism operators back Great Barrier Reef plastic straws ban

12th July 2017 - Taronga Zoo moves toward plastic-free operations

8th June 2017 - SEA LIFE Melbourne celebrates World Oceans Day to spread important message


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