New Report Shows Vast Majority of Great Lakes Litter is Plastic

New Report Shows Vast Majority of Great Lakes Litter is Plastic

A new report released by the Alliance for the Great Lakes reveals that 86% of litter collected on Great Lakes beaches is made either partially or fully of plastic. The report is based on data collected from over 14,000 Adopt-a-Beach cleanups on all five Great Lakes, and is especially troubling since plastics don’t go away, they break down into microplastic particles that make their way into the Great Lakes — a source of drinking water for millions.

“Plastic pollution in the Great Lakes is a threat to both human health and the environment,” says Olivia Reda, the author of the report and the volunteer engagement manager at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “The volume of plastic found on our shorelines demonstrates the urgent need to pass federal, state, and local laws that reduce plastic pollution getting into the lakes. While our dedicated volunteers are cleaning up literally tons of litter each year, more of this plastic litter enters our waters, where it breaks down into tiny particles that are found in our drinking water.”

The report further finds that substantially reducing plastic pollution will require action from businesses, governments and manufacturers, towards which end the Alliance for the Great Lakes is calling for implementing Extended Producer Responsibility policies. Shorter-term solutions include reducing or eliminating the most problematic plastics like single-use bags and foam, deploying new technologies such as microfilters in washing machines to remove plastic microfibers, stopping the spills of industrial plastic pellets in the Great Lakes, and increasing access to water refilling stations as well as reuse and refill packaging. On a brighter note, many of these solutions are already moving forward in several Great Lakes states.

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