Plastic Pollution: A Great Lakes Priority

February 15, 2017

The Alliance developed its 2017 Great Lakes Action Agenda to outline our federal priorities for lawmakers, which includes keeping a careful eye on plastic pollution. Researchers are finding alarming amounts of plastic in the open water, tributaries, and shorelines of the Great Lakes. Plastic debris makes up 77% to 90% of the total shoreline debris collected during the Alliance‚Äôs Adopt-a-Beach™ and the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup events.

Phasing out microbeads is an important step, but not enough

Last session, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law The Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015 that amended the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to ban personal care products containing plastic microbeads. This was an important step in addressing plastic pollution in the Lakes, but it is not enough to solve the problem.

Microbeads only represent about 16% of the microplastics found in the Great Lakes. The majority of open water plastic is in fragments broken down from larger pieces, while fibers represent most tributary microplastics.

2017 Great Lakes Action Agenda – Plastic Pollution Priorities

Reducing these types of pollution will require a) identifying the root sources of the plastic and b) pursuing policy and consumer behavior campaigns that can credibly reduce the amount entering our Great Lakes. The Alliance is working with researchers to determine how we can best address this issue.