Vancouver Aquarium Bans Water Bottles and Other Disposable Plastics

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illustration of whale swiming surrounded by plastic bottles
Plastics Don't Disappear.

From now on, thirsty visitors can refill their own bottles at water fountains or grab a reusable cup in the cafeteria.

The Vancouver Aquarium has taken a bold and admirable step in banning single-use plastics from its facility. Water bottles, straws, cup lids, and disposable cutlery will no longer be sold on the premises, as the Aquarium strives to align its retail practices with responsible ocean stewardship. It is the first aquarium or zoo to do so in Canada, and will hopefully inspire others to follow.

Visitors are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles that can be refilled at four new water fountains and bottle-filling stations located throughout the Aquarium and even outdoors. In a pinch, there are reusable cups available in the cafeteria – a practice which is frequently rejected by restaurants on the basis of hygiene, but seems to be coming back into fashion, thankfully.

Sometimes a powerful visual presentation is the easiest way to convince a skeptical audience. The Aquarium has created a temporary art installation showcasing the number of plastic water bottles sold in the café between September and November last year. It looks like a giant trash heap, and yet is only a fraction of the approximately 37,000 bottles sold on-site in 2016.

Vancouver Aquarium wave of plastic
Lounging in plastic trash isn't so sweet. Vancouver Aquarium / Facebook

Inside the window, a 20-foot model of a humpback whale swims among ‘waves’ of 1,200 plastic bottles – the average number of bottles that will be eliminated from the Aquarium’s waste stream every two weeks, now that the policy has changed.

John Nightingale, president, and CEO of the Vancouver Aquarium said in a media release:

“Humans are producing tremendous amounts of plastic at a time when the problem has never been more pressing. Currently, there is enough plastic in the ocean to cover every meter of the world’s coastlines. There is a great dependency on single-use plastic water bottles that we must curb and the Aquarium, as an ocean conservation organization, is fully committed to doing our part.”

The trend away from single-use water bottles is gathering steam. Last week Business Insider called bottled water “the new smoking” and, in a bizarre ad for Soda Stream, celebrity Paris Hilton even took an anti-plastic stance:

“Plastic bottles are poisoning our planet. Think how stupid and how 2003 you look carrying your plastic bottles home from the store.”

I don’t ever listen to Paris Hilton, but she’s hit the nail on the head this time. Way to go, Vancouver Aquarium, for getting with the times and realizing that single-use water bottles really have no place. May others follow your example.