Houston’s wildlife hub and habitat is taking a step to do away with a material that has proven to be damaging to the ecosystem. The Houston Zoo has eliminated single-use plastic packaging in all gift shops; the move makes the zoo the first in the country to do so, per a press release.
The zoo’s disposal of plastic comes in a nod to its Plastic Free July. Single-use plastic materials such as shopping bags were removed in 2015, followed by bottles and straws.
Guests will likely not see much of a change and can still purchase goods at the store — all without single-use plastic packaging. Additionally, the gift shop was one of the first to change to100-percent recyclable and renewable BPA-free receipt paper where trees are planted for every case used, per a release.
Single-use plastic items are so named as they are typically used only once, and can end up in waterways like bayous, lakes, and oceans when discarded. Importantly, animals such as sea turtles or birds may get entangled in a plastic item or mistake it for food, often resulting in illness and death. The Houston Zoo treats more than 100 wild sea turtles a year, some of them with plastic-related injuries.
“Our conservation teams continue to clean up plastic ocean trash that washes ashore to protect sea turtles and other wildlife on the Galapagos islands,” said Houston Zoo Galapagos conservation partner, Lady Márquez of Ecology Project International (EPI). “We’re so grateful for the Zoo’s partnership and commitment to saving wildlife and reducing threats to animals in Texas and Galapagos.”