SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is to eliminate plastic shopping bags from the 10 theme parks it operates by the end of the year. The move will make it the largest theme park operator to make this commitment, according to the company, whose parks include Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove, Adventure Island and Sesame Place.
When the initiative is fully implemented, park gift shops will offer paper bags made from 100 percent recycled paper, and give guests the option to buy reusable bags. SeaWorld hopes the move will keep an estimated four million plastic bags from entering landfills and the environment each year.
About 1.4 billion tons of trash, including plastic bags, enters the ocean annually. Wildlife such as endangered sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their favorite foods, Seaworld says.
SeaWorld hopes the move will help these marine animals and act as a model for the amusement park industry.
The company began exploring the concept at SeaWorld San Diego in 2011, when the park discontinued the use of plastic gift bags to mark the opening of its new Turtle Reef attraction. SeaWorld Orlando is eliminating the bags this month in conjunction with the opening of its new attraction, TurtleTrek.
SeaWorld and Coca-Cola have also introduced paper cups for guests at the parks, under a 10-year partnership. The cups are made with 85 percent renewable resources. Guests use more than 13 million paper cups each year throughout the 10 parks.
In 2008 SeaWorld – then known as Busch Entertainment Corp. – introduced a raft of sustainability initiatives including using only plastic utensils from renewable sources, and feeding certain captive animals with only sustainably sourced fish.
Consumers should expect less access to single-use plastic carrier bags and bottles in 2012, according to Plastics Today. Curbs on shopping bag use, including taxes and outright bans, began to spring up in 2010 and continued through 2011.
Likewise plastic bottles came under fire in places such as the Grand Canyon, which enacted an outright ban on bottled water last year. The National Park Service spent nearly $290,000 to install 10 water refill stations inside the park. Park concessionaires can still sell other bottled beverages. Disposable bottles account for 20 percent of the park’s waste and 30 percent of its recyclables, according to the Park Service.