Plastic-Free to Save Our Sea

Plastics in the ocean pose a huge threat to the ocean ecosystem - but Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is helping to protect wildlife through a number of actions. Join us by assessing the use of single-use plastics in your own life.

THE PROBLEM WITH PLASTICSWashed Ashore purple plastics

The science is clear: It's predicted that if we don’t take action, the amount of plastics will exceed the amount of fish, pound for pound, by 2050.

  • Plastic production has skyrocketed since 1950: A 2015 Worldwatch Institute report noted that approximately 300 million tons of plastic are generated around the globe each year. This is projected to rise to 600 million tons within the next 20 years.
  • Approximately 8 million tons of plastics end up in the ocean annually – equivalent to a dump-truck’s worth every minute – with the major culprit being single-use plastics. These plastics, such as bags, straws, and bottles, often make their way into the ocean through storm drain runoff, when littered, or when they escape trash collection activities, landfills, and even recycling stations. A full 80% of ocean trash originates from land.
  • For every foot of coastline, there are 5 bags worth of plastics in the ocean.
  • Plastics persist in the ocean for a very long time, breaking down into small pieces but never really going away. These micro plastics absorb pollutants, forming a toxic “smog” suspended throughout the entire water column and deposited on the ocean floor.
  • Ocean circulation patterns cause plastics to concentrate in five ocean gyres, sometimes referred to as “garbage patches.” This description is misleading, however, since the majority of plastics in the gyres are invisible microplastics. That’s why you can’t just “clean it up.”



At least 637 species of species have been documented as having encounters with ocean plastic pollution.

  • Ocean wildlife such as fish, seals, sea lions, otters, seabirds and whales are harmed by plastics when they become entangled.
  • Many marine animals mistake plastic ocean trash for food, nibbling on it or ingesting it entirely. It’s estimated that 90% of seabirds eat plastic, many feeding it to their chicks which may die from lack of nutrition – despite a full stomach.
  • Toxic microplastics are ingested by invertebrate larvae and fish and are concentrated as these creatures are eaten by other animals up the food web – including seals, sea birds, and orcas. These “poison pills” may contain 1 million times the concentration of PCBs compared to the surrounding water.
  • The implications to human health of microplastics being contained in the food we eat is still unknown.


Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Lancer Hospitality, and Wildlife Trading Company have joined forces to reduce single-use plastics.

  • We don't provide plastic bottles, plastic lids, or straws in our cafes.
  • We have installed water bottle filling stations to make it easy for guests to have access to fresh water.
  • We have discontinued the use of plastic bags in Zoo and Northwest Trek gift shops, complying with the City of Tacoma's ban on single-use plastic bags that will go into effect in July 2017.


You can make a difference! By adopting new habits, watching your purchases, and speaking out in your community, you can reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our waterways and ocean. Try these tips:

  • Avoid buying single-use plastic whenever possible.
  • Avoid individually wrapped items such as snack packs and single-serve containers. Buy items in bulk when possible.
  • Fill a reusable bottle instead of buying bottled water. (You can find water bottle filling stations throughout the Zoo!)
  • Use your reusable bag and containers when shopping, traveling, or packing lunches.
  • When placing your drink order, ask the serve to skip the straw.
  • Bring your own container for leftovers when dining out.
  • Support proposed bans on single-use plastic bags, like the one that will go into effect in Tacoma this summer.
  • Organize clean-up efforts in your community.
  • Start a workplace effort to reduce plastic.
  • Spark a conversation on social media.