Stop Plastic Pollution
We protect vital habitats for wildlife and people by advocating for the elimination of single-use plastics and removing plastic pollution from waterways and wetlands.
We seek to curb the negative impacts of plastic pollution on the health of people, wildlife and ecosystems through waterway and community cleanups, public awareness campaigns, advocacy for source reduction solutions and the elimination of single-use plastics in our own business operations.
Each year, we engage hundreds of volunteers in cleanups and field days to remove plastic pollution and other debris from entering waterways that lead to the Chesapeake Bay and the ocean beyond. We contribute data from these events to scientists, conservation groups, governments and industry leaders to support actions to reduce sources of plastic pollution.
The National Aquarium, along with Monterey Bay Aquarium in California and Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, founded the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP). The ACP connects aquariums from across the United States to bring an allied voice to ocean conservation issues, including a plastic pollution education campaign to empower 20 million aquarium visitors to shift away from single-use plastics and adopt innovative alternatives.
We advocate for laws on local, state and national levels to reduce use of single-use plastics. This is important because most marine debris is plastic that comes from land, and experts estimate there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our ocean, with millions of tons entering each year. Disposable plastic items easily wash or blow into the ocean, where they can have devastating effects on marine animals and ecosystems. Plastic pollution also affects human health—humans are ingesting the plastic that has found its way into our food web, and the production of plastic releases toxins into our atmosphere that have negative impacts on our health. We also have a financial interest in reducing plastic pollution, since the cost of waste management and litter cleanup largely comes from our tax dollars. Recycling helps—but reducing the use of plastic is a critical first step in keeping it out of the ocean.
To ensure that our own operations are authentic to our mission, the National Aquarium has a goal of eliminating all single-use plastics in our buildings. Our gift shops do not offer plastic bags, we replaced disposable plastic products in our cafes with compostable or more sustainable recyclable options, and we continue to phase out single-use plastics from our other operations. With the installation of water bottle filling stations and removal of single-use plastics from our cafes, we estimate that at least 300,000 water and soft drink bottles have been removed from the waste stream each year.
We act on our conservation goals by protecting and restoring the environment, advocating and caring for animals, and educating and empowering people.