Plastic pollution

Oregon Zoo's position on plastic pollution

The rapid rise of plastic production has created a global plastic waste crisis. Plastic pollution is a growing threat to the health of marine and land-based wildlife, ecosystems and humans. A reduction in plastic production will only be achievable through the combined efforts of consumers, businesses and governments.

The Oregon Zoo believes that reducing the sources of plastic pollution will protect the health of wildlife, people and the ecosystems we depend on.

Key points

  • Plastic poses a threat to the majority of sea turtle, marine mammal, and seabird species, whether by ingestion or entanglement.
  • Plastic microtrash threatens California condors. Microtrash can prevent chicks from digesting food, resulting in starvation and death.
  • Nearly 9 million tons of plastic enters the ocean each year (two million pounds per hour), and this amount is expected to double by 2025. This is the equivalent of five bags filled with plastic sitting on every foot of coastline in the world.
  • A growing body of research shows how microplastics and associated toxics can travel through the ocean food web, possibly ending up in seafood for human consumption.
  • Americans generate an average of 220 pounds of plastic waste per person each year.
  • In 2018, more than 10,000 tons of Oregon's recycling was dumped into landfills, in part due to contamination from non-recyclable plastics.
  • In 2013, Portland became the first city in Oregon to adopt a single-use plastic bag ban, but Oregonians still use an estimated 1.7 billion single-use plastic bags every year.
  • As consumers become more aware of the problem, they can increase their demand for alternatives to plastic, and in turn, help drive business innovation in new product design and materials.

What we can do

  • Actions at stores: Skip produce bags altogether or bring reusable alternatives. Avoid choosing or purchasing plastic packaging in the first place, especially #3 (PVC) and #7 (polycarbonate or mixed resins). Give preference to glass, metal, and paper.
  • Actions at restaurants: Select restaurants that use washable plates, cups, and utensils. Ask stores and restaurants to switch to "upon request" policies and to find alternatives, and recognize them when they do. Bring a reusable container for your take-out and leftovers.
  • Actions at home: Plastic bottles, jars, tubs, buckets and nursery pots are recyclable at home, while most other plastics are considered garbage. Sort recyclable plastic by shape, not number to avoid contaminating recycling. Line the bottom of trash bins with newspaper instead of plastic liners. Replace ziplocks with washable baggies for lunches.
  • Actions outdoors: Practice "Leave no Trace" camping and outdoor recreation. Pack out any trash (plastic and otherwise) you bring into a natural area.
  • Community-level actions: Support local and state policies to reduce sources of plastic pollution: i.e., bans on single-use plastic bags and improved recycling programs.