In the last five months I have been lucky enough to visit Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters in NSW, Perth Zoo, The Aquarium of Western Australia (AQWA) and Busselton Jetty. Each of these places lets us get close to animals, marine life and nature which we’d otherwise not see.
Here’s the thing, they all have something heartbreakingly similar in common. The plastic-fantastic gift shop. A little take home, some small memento of your amazing experience. A little gift for your child to remember your special day together. What they sell is all the same! [The zoo does have some more specialised items].
All the stuffed fluffy toys are made from plastic materials – now correct me if I’m wrong but that is end of life plastic, they can’t be recycled again (if they ever were from recycled plastic to begin with). That means they have only one place left to go… Landfill. It’s not just the stuffed toys, it’s all the plastic toys.
After seeing a plastic bag floating in a tank at Irukandji – which, to the average person and turtle – looks like a jelly-fish, I was hoping to see something more unique and in keeping with the experience. This was before I started my plastic-awareness journey. I just didn’t want to buy another stupid stuffed toy, or crappy plastic toy.
Visiting the Zoo, Busselton Jetty and AQWA I realised they have THE EXACT SAME TOYS and this means it is NOT SPECIAL. Further it’s not educating anyone on a better way forward, to protect the animals, reef or sharks & rays that we’ve just seen. It’s just more plastic that will become micro-plastic and end up killing what we’ve seen and destroying their habitats.
Even the tote bags, were a plastic based fabric I noted in AQWA (possibly elsewhere, I admit I didn’t check each location). I understand that these aren’t all conservation locations, that to me, is not an excuse. Why wouldn’t you take the chance to further educate people in what they can do differently swap a plastic bag for a jute tote. Or stop using this laundry detergent because it’s toxic to marine life. Stop using that huge list of products, because it’s not great for the Orangutang population and habitat, and sell the items that are environmentally conscious, friendly and sustainable.
Perhaps a corner available to books like Plastic Ahoy, and, All the way to the ocean. Plastic Free by Beth Terry. Have some information on 5 Gyres and A Plastic Ocean-DVD, plus a section with other environmental DVDs, there are quite a few. Have some zero waster items that are stainless steel.
Sell a host of cheaper items too, like Bamboo toothbrushes with a small sign letting people know they are compostable, as plastic brushes are landfill (unless recycled with TerraCycle). Items that often end up in the bellies of sea creatures, birds, fish, turtles and the rest.
What about 4MyEarth products along side glass and stainless steel straws? I’ve now seen the YouTube clip of a Turtle having a straw pulled from it’s nose, letting people know there are other options to the plastic straws and keeping them out of your cafés is a good start too.
There could be information on Take 3 for the Sea. Native bee homes for sale and local soaps made palm oil free, wooden watches, sunglasses and phone covers (iBark), perhaps recycled stationery that has less of an impact on the environment. There could be some cleaning products that are ‘safe for our sea’ that don’t contain toxic chemicals and are low in plastic packaging.
There could be reusable bags of all types, tote (jute/cotton) bags, or produce bags. Paper pot makers and bamboo hair brushes, wooden toys and games, seeded-paper cards or paper, solar chargeable lights and solar charging points. A selection of plastic-free shampoo, conditioner and body care products – they do exist, and most are free from nasties. A display explaining Plastic Free July!
There really are so many other options other then the plastic-fabric toys and cheap hard plastic toys that break in the car on the way home. I really hate this little orange clown fish (from China) that is at every tourist point in Australia, my daughter insisted on it before I started saying no to plastic, it’s from Irukandji, she now knows it’s not going to be a special reminder of the encounter with Sharks, since it’s at the Jetty and AQWA too – she’s only six.
I will be sending this via Facebook to the places mentioned, if you know of a tourist location that could promote care for what you view via it’s gift shop – please contact them too and ask for change.
I love all of these tourist places mentioned, I really, really do. I’ve had amazing experiences in each – and I recommend visiting each… I just wish those experiences extended into the gift shop. Please change.
The Kittens Mum
Please note, not all of these places have a café and the zoo has different items because it’s not all marine life.