The Washed Ashore exhibit is made entirely from plastic pollution will be at Toronto Zoo from May – November 2019.

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Author: Kyla Greenham,

Kyla Greenham

Kyla Greenham is curator of conservation at the Toronto Zoo. – Amanda Chambers/photo

Plastic pollution in our oceans has gained more media attention in recent years. Following news images such as the infamous straw stuck in the nose of a sea turtle, plastic pollution is now on our radar as a marine issue.

The missing part of the story is that plastic pollution is not just a marine issue.

Eighty per cent of plastic found in oceans comes from freshwater and land sources; 75 per cent of the litter found on Great Lakes beaches is plastic. Most of this litter is food and beverage containers and cigarette and cigar filters left by beach visitors. Knowing that the problem begins at home in our community is great news, because it means each of us has the power create positive change with every small action. Turns out we are not just a drop in the ocean after all.

Plastics in our waterways break down into small pieces and are consumed by fish, and when we eat these fish, we consume micro plastic too. Both animals and humans suffer from plastics pollution. Some plastic items, like bottles and grocery bags, are used for five minutes, disposed, and last hundreds of years in our environment. We cannot rid the earth of all plastics, but we can cut down on single-use plastic items.

The Toronto Zoo will be hosting a travelling exhibit right here in Scarborough, called Washed Ashore — Art to Save the Sea. This installation will open for the May long weekend and includes 10 larger-than-life sculptures of aquatic animals created entirely from plastic and other debris gathered from the ocean. This powerful display will educate guests about the impact that plastic pollution has on our oceans and waterways, and aims to spark change in people’s everyday lives.

The Toronto Zoo hosts Party for the Planet each year, often holding on-site activities to educate and engage guests on environmental concerns and how they affect biodiversity. In 2019, we are taking Party for the Planet into the community with this year’s theme — “Spring Into Action” — and we are hoping to inspire you to spring into action alongside us. As a proud member of the Scarborough community, the Toronto Zoo is excited to engage families and community members in the ways in which our small actions can make a big difference. Each year, the Toronto Zoo carries out a Shoreline Cleanup at Rouge Park Beach; last year, we collected 4,939 pieces of litter and had an incredible turnout of more than 75 participants. Join us this year on Sept. 13.

Your actions in your community make a difference in the world:

• Leave the beach better than when you arrived; do a personal mini shoreline cleanup.

• Recycling single-use plastic is a great start! Plastic can only be recycled once or twice, which is why refusing single use plastic is best.

• Carry a reusable water bottle (take advantage of our water bottle-filling stations when you visit the zoo).

• Choose reusable shopping bags, including mesh bags for produce.

• Try shopping bulk for dry goods, and bring your own glass or metal container.

• Look for items packaged in paper, cardboard and glass.

• Refuse straws and carry reusable cutlery.

Be sure to check out for details on Party for the Planet and Washed Ashore — Art to Save the Sea!

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