Our Adopt-a-Beach volunteers put in some serious work during the 2019 Adopt-a-Beach season. We had volunteers cleaning on all five Great Lakes in all eight Great Lakes states. And across that huge geography, there is one commonality: plastic.

In 2019, 90% of all the litter picked up from Great Lakes beaches was plastic. Unfortunately, this figure is not surprising. Plastic has consistently been the most common type of litter found on Great Lakes beaches for years. 

Why is it important to keep plastic pollution out of the Great Lakes? Good question. Once it’s in the water or on the beach, plastic never really goes away — it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.  Once in the water, microplastics can absorb toxic chemicals commonly found in the water. And, they can be mistaken for food by small fish and wildlife. Studies have shown that fish and wildlife of all sizes consume plastic. 

Those tiny pieces of plastic have a negative effect on the environment and wildlife. They may even impact human health. Microplastics have been found in drinking water – and have even been found in beer!

Luckily, Adopt-a-Beach volunteers are on the front lines of Great Lakes protection — keeping beaches and shorelines beautiful for all to enjoy. We are so grateful for their hard work! And without further ado, here is 2019 in numbers: 

there were over 21,146 volunteer experiences

In 2019, there were 1,084 events

Adopt-a-beach volunteers cleaned up over 53,843 pounds of trash