Press Release

Illinois Environmental Leaders Resolve To Reduce Great Lakes Plastic Pollution In 2018

2018 marks the year plastic microbeads banned from sale in US and Canada

January 4, 2018

Joint Press Release from Alliance for the Great Lakes, Illinois Environmental Council, and Shedd Aquarium

CHICAGO (January 4, 2018) – Local elected officials, alongside leaders from Shedd Aquarium, Alliance for the Great Lakes and Illinois Environmental Council (IEC), announced today a joint resolution to take on the nationwide fight against plastic pollution in local waterways in 2018. The commitment aligns with the new federal law banning the sale and manufacture of personal care products containing plastic microbeads earmarked for implementation this year.

Illinois was the first state to ban the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products in 2014, leading the way for a national movement that resulted in the landmark federal legislation. The issue has also received international attention, as a similar microbead ban went into effect on the first of the year in Canada.

“I am proud that our legislation in Illinois led the nation in effective action against microbead pollution,” said State Senator Heather Steans. “With this bill coming into effect in 2018, we will continue to demonstrate our state’s commitment to protecting clean water and public health.”

“About 22 million pounds of plastic flow into the Great Lakes each year,” said Jennifer Walling, executive director of IEC. “Banning microbeads was a critical step in fighting plastic pollution, as research released in 2013 showed the presence of microplastics in all five Great Lakes, as well as the many rivers and tributaries that feed them. The impact this law will have on the health of our waters and the people and animals who depend on them is significant; however, there is much more work that needs to be done.”

Now, these elected officials and environmental organizations hope to continue to lead the charge in empowering the public to make conscious decisions about their plastic use and disposal.

Last year, Shedd Aquarium announced its commitment to helping reduce the public’s use of single-use plastics as a founder of the Aquarium Conservation Project, a coalition made up of 19 accredited aquariums across the United States banning together to tackle the problem on a national scale. This year, Shedd has its sights set on creating new, expansive partnerships with Chicago communities and businesses, including a continued focus on reducing consumers’ use of plastic straws through the aquarium’s  #SheddTheStraw campaign,

Additionally, Shedd Aquarium President and CEO Dr. Bridget Coughlin shared the organization’s operational commitment on a global stage at the 2017 Our Oceans Conference held in Malta to significantly reduce single-use plastic beverage bottles by December 2020.

“Small actions can turn into big solutions for challenges facing our Great Lakes and oceans, and we believe the 35 million people in the Great Lakes who rely on this beautiful, massive resource will want to be part of that wave of change,” said Dr. Coughlin. “We look forward to working together in these commitments.”

“From streams and rivers to the Great Lakes, we have a responsibility to ensure our bodies of water are clean and safe for drinking water, fishing, recreation, and more,” said Congressman Mike Quigley, who serves as Vice Chair of the Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition (SEEC). “As we celebrate the New Year with this federal victory, I look forward to pursuing additional ways we can further safeguard our waterways from plastic pollution and protect their health for future generations.”

As these Great Lake Leaders resolve to reduce plastic pollution they are also calling on elected officials, businesses and citizens to join them in a New Year’s resolution to pass on plastic whenever possible and help reduce plastic pollution in the Great Lakes.

“It is more important than ever that we take action to protect our planet and our children’s future,” said Illinois Representative Jaime M. Andrade. “I will continue to promote sound policies in Illinois, like the microbead ban, that reduce plastic pollution,”

“Illinois led the nation when it became the first state to ban microbeads, and I was proud to cosponsor the federal ban when it passed in 2015. As 2018 begins and the microbead ban kicks in nationwide, we recommit ourselves to fighting for clean water and protecting the Great Lakes. From supporting sweeping legislation to changing the way we shop or eat, each one of us can get involved in the fight against plastic pollution. But there can be no delay. The time to act is now,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky.

Plastic accounts for approximately 80 percent of the litter on the Great Lakes’ shorelines. Cleaning up local beaches is critical to preventing plastic debris from entering the ecosystems and polluting waterways. The Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Adopt-a-Beach and Shedd Aquarium’s Great Lakes Action Day programs enlists volunteers to help pick up debris from local beaches to prevent it from entering Lake Michigan and local rivers.

“There’s only so much our volunteers can do on land to keep plastic pollution out of the water,” said Joel Brammeier, Alliance for the Great Lakes president and CEO. “True solutions focus on the sources of plastic pollution and the microbead campaign is a great example of advocates, businesses and elected officials coming together to solve a problem.”

“There’s still much to be done to protect our waterways from further plastic pollution,” said Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President. “Joining together, taking action today, we can make a difference and keep Lake Michigan healthy and vibrant and make an overall positive impact on our environment.”


VISUALS: High-resolution photos and video of microplastics and referenced programs can be found here: Photo credits: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

About Shedd Aquarium
John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago sparks compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world. Home to 32,000 aquatic animals representing 1,500 species of fishes, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds and mammals from waters around the globe, Shedd is a recognized leader in animal care, conservation education and research. An accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the first U.S. aquarium awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals by American Humane, Shedd is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, and supported by the people of Chicago, the State of Illinois and the Chicago Park District.

About Alliance for the Great Lakes
The Alliance for the Great Lakes works to protect the Great Lakes for today and tomorrow. We involve tens of thousands of people each year in advocacy, volunteering, education, and research to ensure the lakes are healthy and safe for all. Learn more at

About Illinois Environmental Council
IEC promotes sound environmental laws and policies. We encourage decision makers in the private sector to go beyond minimum standards to establish new environmental best practices. We credit those who lead, innovate, and inspire others to follow their example. Learn more at

MEDIA CONTACT: Jennifer J. Caddick , (312) 445-9760,