SeaWorld bans plastic bags, straws to combat ocean pollution

SeaWorld has announced a ban on plastic drinking straws and plastic shopping bags in all its parks, including Busch Gardens and Sesame Place.    The Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, estimates that 8 million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean each year, on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate the planet. This prevalence of plastics in the ocean has been making its way into the diets of marine animals that mistake it for food and become sick or even die. 
[Associated Press file photo]
SeaWorld has announced a ban on plastic drinking straws and plastic shopping bags in all its parks, including Busch Gardens and Sesame Place. The Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, estimates that 8 million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean each year, on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate the planet. This prevalence of plastics in the ocean has been making its way into the diets of marine animals that mistake it for food and become sick or even die. [Associated Press file photo]
Published June 12 2018
Updated June 12 2018

Collin the sea turtle, with a belly full of plastic garbage, may have been the last straw.

SeaWorld announced all its parks and properties, including Busch Gardens in Tampa and Sesame Place, will ban plastic drinking straws and plastic bags.

The announcement came days after SeaWorld Orlando’s rescue operations team performed emergency surgery on the sea turtle they named Collin, which came in with an abdominal blockage. That blockage ended up being sea debris made up of plastic.

"We’ve seen first-hand the horrific damage that plastic pollution causes to animals," Jon Peterson, manager of rescue operations at SeaWorld Orlando, said in a news release. "Some studies have indicated that more than half of sea turtles out in the wild ingest some form of plastic."

Guests can choose from paper straws or reusable cups. They can pay 10 cents for a paper bag or buy a reusable cloth bag when shopping ($2.99 for a medium, $7.99 for a large).

Many of SeaWorld’s properties had already been moving in this directing. The San Diego park banned plastic shopping bags in 2011, and Busch Gardens in Tampa has long banned straws in its park.

RELATED: Plastic straws: Everyone uses them, and that’s the problem.

In 2016, the SeaWorld parent company announced a major effort to reduce waste, use sustainable and cage free-foods, and reduce its carbon footprint through recycling and solar energy. At the time, SeaWorld encouraged visitors to use reusable bags and cups.

But this announcement goes a step further.

SeaWorld interim CEO John Reilly called the plastics ban a "milestone environmental achievement" that is another example of its mission to "protect the environment, the ocean and the animals we share our planet with."

Several companies have recently announced plans to phase out use of plastic bags and straws, including McDonald’s stores in the U.K. and Swedish furniture maker Ikea.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.

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