Oakland Zoo Takes Stand Against Single-Use Plastics with Big Changes in Zoo Operations

Oakland Zoo
February 13, 2020

Oakland Zoo is the first Zoo in California to proactively take on the issue of plastics and its progressing global devastation on wildlife and the environment.

Dr. Parrott, CEO/President of Oakland Zoo, Saying #NoToPlastic while visiting Tri-CED Recycling Facility in Union City
Washed Ashore Sculptures on display at the Zoo. Made from 100%plastic washed up on beaches
Dr. Parrott CEO/President of Oakland Zoo presenting a first-ever manufactured can of Dasani water at the Zoo
Before (right) and After(left) photos of beverage and food products sales display at Oakland Zoo restaurants. All beverages come in metal or paper packaging while fruit cups shown are in 100% compostable containers

Oakland,CA – February 13, 2020… Oakland Zoo — Conservation Society of California is Taking Action for Wildlife by amending its own use and retail sales of single-use plastics, as global plastics pollution increases its threat to wildlife and the environment. The Zoo launches its #NoToPlastic public awareness campaign on Thursday, coinciding with changes in Zoo operations in eliminating many single-use plastics onsite, and with the goal of becoming nearly 100% plastic-free in the future.

Led by President and CEO, Dr. Joel Parrott, plans for the zoo-wide effort to phaseout as much plastic use as possible was set in motion a year ago, as statistics of global issue demonstrated the urgency for change. He notes a ‘defining moment’ during a business trip to Taiwan in late 2018, where a museum displayed a necropsy video of veterinarians pulling what seemed like an endless stream of plastic bags and other plastic trash out of a killer whale’s stomach.


Plastic trash is everywhere, along our highways, in our creeks, and filling the ocean;posing a direct threat to animals globally. I’m proud to be one of the first Zoos in the U.S. to step forward and advocate for the elimination of plastics in our environment,” said Dr. Parrott, President & CEO, Oakland Zoo—Conservation Society of California.


It has been over a decade since the Zoo banned plastic straws, utensils, and cup lids, but stronger action was needed. The single-use plastic audit began with many negotiations with multiple Zoo vendors in providing and/or sourcing alternatives to plastic, starting with the nearly 100,000 plastic-bottled beverages sold at the Zoo every year. The process took nearly a year, but progress was made. The Dasani water now sold at Zoo restaurants had never been offered in an aluminum can, and was newly engineered to be available at Oakland Zoo, along with an assortment of all canned-only beverages.


Popcorn went from a plastic bag container to a paper-based box, cotton-candy is discontinued until a sustainable container is sourced, and single-use plastic packaging was reduced by 60% in the Zoo’s gift shop. A new retail section devoted to sustainability includes household items stasher bags, metal straws,bees wrap, and more. These changes have influenced some other AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) zoos to evaluate their own facilities in single-use plastics.


Single-use plastic has also been eliminated from many from daily internal operations. From the Animal Care department to Administration, the audit instituted changes in animal food containment, phasing out trash bags, and upgraded waste sorting systems.


As part of the public campaign to inspire others to reduce their use of plastics,on February 13 the Zoo will unveil Washed Ashore “Art to Save the Sea”plastic-trash sculptures in Flamingo Plaza. Sponsored in part by Recology, a 100% employee-owned resource recovery company based in San Francisco, this new display provides the opportunity to tell the story about the direct impact humans have on the environment, and what people can do to make a positive difference. Washed Ashore, larger-than-life animal sculptures constructed from plastic trash washed onto Oregon beaches, uses the power of art to spark change in consumer habits.


Zoo partner, Recology, is working alongside global NGOs to put a California statewide initiative on the November 2020 ballot. The California Plastic Pollution Reduction Act of 2020 seeks to fund environmental restoration in areas that have been impacted by plastic pollution and provide funding for domestic recycling infrastructure. The measure would involve a reduction of plastic packaging entering the state of California and require single-use plastic packaging to be recyclable or compostable by 2030.The campaign is currently collecting signatures for the ballot initiative.


Every weekend, guests can visit the #NoToPlastic action booth in Flamingo Plaza to learn how to become more plastic-free in their daily lives, along with the opportunity to sign an anti- plastics pledge. This pledge asks guests to eliminate a form of single-use plastic in their lives, like straws, bottles,cups, or bags.


Along with the launch of the sculptures and onsite educational booths, the Zoo hosts monthly creek clean-ups, and February 15 marks the start of new monthly offsite#NoToPlastic clean-ups in local waterways and beaches throughout Alameda County, beginning with the Jack London Aquatic Center. Staff and the public will work in the local bay-destined waterways to remove the trash, including the ever-abundant plastics that harm wildlife.

Single-Use Plastic Facts:




Erin Harrison

Oakland Zoo


Office: 510-746-7120

Cell: 415-601-1619


Isabella Linares

Oakland Zoo


Office: 510-632-9525 ext. 239

Cell: 650 – 776 -9589






Oakland Zoo, home to more than 850+ native and exotic animals, is managed by the Conservation Society of California (CSC); anon-profit organization leading an informed and inspired community to take action for wildlife locally and globally. With over 25 conservation partners and projects worldwide, the CSC is committed to conservation-based education and saving species and their habitats in the wild. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.



Washed Ashore is a non-profit 501c (3).Our mission is to build and exhibit aesthetically powerful art to educate a global audience about plastic pollution in the ocean and waterways and to spark positive changes in consumer habits. The Washed Ashore staff has worked with over 14,000 volunteers in the last 10 years and processed over 26 tons of garbage from the beach into over 80 works of educational art. Washed Ashore has four traveling exhibits that tour the county and Canada to reach millions of people yearly with the message that their every action counts and we can all make better choices to reduce plastic pollution and help our planet.



Recology is a 100% employee-owned integrated resource recovery company that provides environmental services – including recycling,compost, and garbage collection and processing to more than 140 communities in California, Oregon and Washington. The Recology mission represents a fundamental shift from traditional waste management to resource recovery. Our vision is to create a world without waste by developing and discovering sustainable resource recovery practices.