The ZooTeen Leaders program is a year-long opportunity for teens to learn at the Zoo through activities focusing on conservation issues, local and global environmental issues, communication skills and career development.
Olivia Thimm, a ZooTeen Leader participant, reports on a recent meeting below:
Hello reader! My name is Olivia and I am a ZooTeen Leader.
One topic we study is recycling and water. Yes, I know what might be thinking: “Ew, she is gonna talk about how we need to go into our garbage and pick out the plastics, paper, glass, etc.” Well that is not what I am going to say but it is very helpful to recycle for the planet and even to help reduce marine litter. The little extra time you spend making sure that the recyclable plastic, paper or glass is out of the trash and in their special bins could save an animal’s life. That is right my audience, just by putting a plastic water bottle in the recycling bin, you could increase the chance of an animal’s survival! It is amazing how just a simple task could help the environment.
There is a major issue at hand, marine litter – pieces of trash in gigantic piles just floating on top of the ocean. Did you know that 80% of marine litter is from the land only? It enters the water via marines, ports, rivers, harbors, docks and even storm drains. 20% of the marine litter is put directly by people into the sea. It enters the water via fishing vessels, stationary platforms and cargo ships. All of this trash can majorly effect our lovable wildlife. Dolphins will mistake a plastic bag as a jellyfish so they will try to eat the plastic bag, which causes major problems for the dolphin. Another example of how dangerous marine litter is to the wildlife is those plastic rings you see on soda cans. They can get around an animal’s neck and make it very difficult for them to breath and cause deformities. This is why recycling is so important.
Some other facts you should be informed about is it takes about 450 years to have a disposable diaper to decompose! Those plastic bags the cute dolphins think are jellyfish take 10-20 years to decompose and the plastic can rings take 400 years to decompose! Now that is crazy. Something that is even more crazy is there is still no determination on how long it takes for glass bottles and Styrofoam cups to decompose!
There are things you can do to help. You can reduce plastic consumption, reduce littering, have beach and shoreline cleanups and remove plastics directly from the water. We built mini models with household objects to make a creation that could be used to remove floating ocean litter – watch a video clip of our findings here. But in the end we learned that the number one way to reduce marine litter was to reduce littering.