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DES MOINES, IOWA — The Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines is launching a new initiative along with Metro Waste Authority to educate Iowans about single-use plastics, the harm they can cause and how to cut them out of your life by “stomping the straw.”

“Plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic cups, even plastic water bottles,” are some of the prime examples of single-use plastics, says Cassie Riley with Metro Waste Authority. Single-use plastics are considered more harmful than helpful. Unlike reusable containers, these plastics pile up in our landfills and waterways. “17% of our landfill of the trash that’s buried is single use plastic,” says Riley, “So it’s plastic bottles, cups, straws, it’s that film that comes around like toilet paper or paper towels and it’s just everywhere”

Landfills aren’t the only place where these plastics end up. They are easily picked up and carried by the wind – getting caught in trees, open fields and waterways.

“It can hurt the wildlife here in Iowa, and by ending up in the waterway,” says Christine Eckles with Blank Park Zoo, “It can affect birds, otters, a lot of amphibians, and reptiles who use those waterways they might want it without even thinking about it not being food.”

The best solution for cutting down on single-use plastic pollution is to stop using them altogether, Riley and Eckles say. They are spreading a message on how to do that through the zoo’s “Stomp the Straw” initiative. The zoo is encouraging schools and individuals to sign their pledge to eliminate single use plastics. Riley says its not as difficult as you may think.

“Starting small is a great place to start, and just making that first choice,” says Riley, “Like maybe it’s using less baggies, maybe it’s asking for paper grocery bags at the store and so plastic or requesting no straw, those little things that we can do at home you know instead of grabbing a plastic water bottle out of the fridge to sit on your couch and drink water, grab a cup out of the cupboard that can go in the dishwasher, anything that can be reused is a better choice right out the gate.”