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Zoo prepares for Plastic Free July
no plastic bags
Replace plastic shopping bags with reusable cloth ones like these, available at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Editor’s note:
The Great Bend Tribune’s annual Zoo Pride special section was included in the Sunday, April 22, paper. Copies as available at the Tribune, 2012 Forest Ave.

This summer the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo staff will promote the Plastic Free July Initiative ( The goal of the challenge is to reduce and eventually end the use of single-use plastics.
Individuals can join the challenge, too. Simply choose to refuse single-use plastic during July.
Curator and Zoo Supervisor Sara Hamlin said this is an issue of global importance but it all starts with small steps at the local level. For example, people can avoid using single-use plastic straws and K-cup style coffee pods. They can also reuse plastic shopping bags or bring their own cloth bags to the store.
“This is an important cause to the staff at the zoo because we are advocates for not only our animals but also their wild counterparts. Animals in the wild are dying from consuming plastic. Growing landfills take land from natural habitats,” Hamlin said.
“At the zoo, we will be removing all of our single-use plastic bags and we will instead offer reusable grocery bags to our customers. Animal Care staff have personally made the effort to refuse plastic straws for their drinks when eating out. (Sometimes I like a straw so I carry a stainless steel one in my purse.) Staff also uses reusable shopping bags on our trips to Wal-Mart instead of accepting plastic bags.
“This challenge isn’t about changing every aspect of your lifestyle,” Hamlin said. “It’s about doing what you can to reduce your footprint on this earth that we all share. So we hope this community will join us in refusing the straw!”

A growing problem

• Every year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates, as much as 14 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean.
• The National Park Service estimates that Americans use 500 million straws EVERY DAY. That’s enough to fill 125 school buses or circle the Earth at least twice.
• Using K-cup style coffee brewers is not only incredibly wasteful as no part of the cup is even recyclable but also the price of the cup on the consumer is equivalent to paying $40 per pound of coffee.
• It takes more than 1,000 years for plastic bags to begin to break down in a landfill.
• The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is the largest of the five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s oceans. It is located halfway between Hawaii and California. A total of 1.8 trillion plastic pieces were estimated to be floating in the patch — that is about 250 pieces of trash for every human in the world. However, 1.8 trillion is a mid-range value for the total count — it may range from 1.1 to up to 3.6 trillion pieces. Read more at