Why We Give A Sip
Single-use plastic straws are just the tip of the iceberg. We have a plastic waste crisis right now. At the rate we're polluting, there will be more plastic in the ocean by weight than fish by 2050. And we show no signs of stopping. Experts expect plastic production to increase by 40% over the next decade due to a rise in manufacturing.
Through the Give a Sip campaign, WCS and partners are supporting efforts in New York City, New York State and at the federal level to promote alternatives to and reduce the consumption of single-use plastics. Recycling, while important, is not enough. With rapid growth in plastic use, many single-use plastics never really go away. Instead, they can end up in our waters where they do deadly harm to our local wildlife.Sea turtles, birds, and fish can't ask us to stop polluting. They often can't avoid getting tangled in plastic or mistaking it for food, either. An estimated 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastic in their stomachs. And when an animal ingests plastic, it's often fatal.
Be part of the solution. Join us today and help reduce single-use plastics.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the problem with plastics?
Plastic was first developed in the 1860s ironically as a substitute for elephant ivory in billiards. After WWII, plastic became widely available as a substance that was cheap, lightweight, durable, and could be thrown away after use. Now, more than a half century later, we know that there is no "away” plastic hangs around in the environment. Today, the world produces hundreds of millions of tons of plastic each year (370 million tons in 2016*), but upwards of 90% of it never gets recycled.**
Doesn't recycling keep plastic out of the environment?
Recycling does help, but overall plastic production is far outpacing recycling capacity in the U.S. and around the world. Furthermore, some single-use plastic items, such as plastic straws, generally can't be recycled. Not using them is the best policy.
What happens once plastic ends up in our oceans?
The world's oceans are inundated with plastic. Studies have shown that roughly nine million tons of plastic from land end up in the oceans every year, the equivalent of dumptruck full of plastic every minute. If we don't slow this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.*
*World Economic Forum. (January 2016). The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics
How does plastic impact fish and other marine animals?
Today, discarded plastic is found in almost every marine habitat on Earth. Sea turtles are known to ingest it because they mistake it for food. Birds, like albatrosses, swallow it by accident because they skim the ocean and pick up plastic when they hunt. Plastic can kill animals when it gets lodged in their throats or stuck in their stomachs, which leads them to stop eating and starve to death. The frequency of these incidents is increasing. As of 2015, all known species of sea turtles, 54 percent of all marine mammal species, and 56 percent of all seabird species have been affected by entanglement or ingestion.* Scientists are trying to determine if the toxic chemicals that accumulate in plastic in the ocean is also killing creatures living in or around the ocean.
*Gall, S.C.; Thompson, R.C. (2015). The impact of debris on marine life. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 92, 170-179.
Is there plastic in the fish we eat?
There isn't a ton of existing scientific research to help answer this question yet. However, for a 2015 study that was published in Scientific Reports, experts examined fish from seafood markets in Indonesia and the U.S. About a quarter of the 140 fish the researchers purchased had some form of garbage in their guts, including plastic fragments and textile fibers.* It goes beyond the gut, though. Other research has shown that ingesting plastic can also lead to a build-up of hazardous chemicals in fish over time.
*Rochman, Chelsea M.; et al. (2015). Anthropogenic debris in seafood. Scientific Reports, 5, article no. 14340.
Do we know if ingesting plastic is harmful to humans?
Scientists are trying to find out. It is a fact that most humans have been exposed to plastic and that it is showing up in our bodies. For example, the Center for Disease Control found BPA (bisphenol-A), a common compound used in the manufacture of plastics, in the urine of nearly all of more than 2,500 participants in a nationwide study of Americans over the age of six.* There is growing concern about the different ways we are exposed to plastics and their potential effects on human health. The best solution for us and for wildlife going forward is to keep this stuff out of the environment in the first place.
What is WCS doing about single-use plastics at its zoos and aquarium?
At WCS, we've eliminated single-use plastic straws, cold drink lids, and single-use carryout plastic bags from the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and the New York Aquarium. WCS has also committed to significantly reduce or eliminate single-use plastic beverage containers by December 2020.
What is WCS doing to help New York’s marine life?
Based at our New York Aquarium, WCS's New York Seascape Program is committed to protecting the New York Bight—which encompasses more than 25,000 square miles of coastal and ocean waters from Montauk, New York, to Cape May, New Jersey. These waters are home to iconic wildlife, including sea turtles, whales, and sharks, as well as nursery grounds and critical habitat for hundreds of other species. Through local field research, policy initiatives, and public outreach, the team seeks to protect and restore threatened species and critical habitat, encourage smart ocean planning to ensure a safe place for wildlife in our busy waters, and build ecological resilience in nearshore and river habitats.