Press Release

New Bill to Protect Great Lakes, Drinking Water from Microplastics Receives Support from Environmental Groups

March 25, 2024

CHICAGO, IL (March 25, 2024) Last week on World Water Day, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Ocean Conservancy, Illinois Environmental Council, and Loyola University scientists held a press conference with partners at the Museum of Science and Industry to discuss protecting the Great Lakes and waterways from the environmental and health risks of microfiber pollution. The Great Lakes provide drinking water for more than 30 million people and are home to diverse and increasingly threatened wildlife. However, the Great Lakes are in the midst of a plastic pollution crisis, with plastic waste increasingly accumulating in our waterways. To address this issue, Illinois lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require microfiber capture devices on all washing machines sold in Illinois by 2030.   

“What happens in Illinois impacts the ocean – whether through the Great Lakes, whose water flows through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic, or through the Mississippi River flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. Microplastics can even be carried by evaporated water and spread through our weather systems around the world. Washing machines are a major contributor to plastic microfiber pollution, and Ocean Conservancy is proud to support this bill to stop microplastics at the source,” said Jeff Watters, Vice President, External Affairs at Ocean Conservancy. 

“For over 30 years, Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach volunteers have been on the front lines of keeping litter off our beaches and out of the Great Lakes by removing over half a million pounds of litter from shorelines since 1991. Most of the litter collected is composed either partially or fully of plastic. The good news is that if we act now, we can stop the pollution before it makes its way into our waterways through simple washing machine filters like those used in dryers. Our dedicated volunteers shouldn’t be the only means to keep plastic pollution out of the Great Lakes. We need smart policies to reduce microplastic pollution, which is why we fully support Illinois House Bill 4269,” said Molly Flanagan, Chief Operating Officer & Vice President for Programs of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.  

“Our research group has been studying litter in our waterways for over 10 years. The vast majority of the trash we find is plastic, and increasingly, microfibers are the most common microplastic in our waterways. Preventing pollution at the source is critical; washing machine filters are a simple and cost-effective solution. This approach is important and can make meaningful improvements to reduce pollution,” said Dr. Tim Hoellein, Associate Professor, Loyola University, Director Aquatic Ecology Lab.  

Plastic microfibers that come from plastic-based textiles and clothing are of growing concern. Microfibers are the most prevalent form of microplastics in environmental samples and represent over 90% of microplastics ingested by marine animals.  In animals, ingestion of microfibers has been shown to reduce food consumption, reduce energy for growth, alter gene expression, and block digestive tracts

In many cases, microfibers that are shed from clothing during household and commercial laundering escape wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and flow with the discharge into our waterways. An existing technology, washing machine microfiber filters, have been shown to be a cost-effective solution that can capture up to 90% of microfibers from each load of laundry, leading to a significant reduction in microfibers in wastewater treatment plants. 

A fact sheet on microfibers can be found here.

Photos from the event can be found here.


About Alliance for the Great Lakes 

The Alliance for the Great Lakes is a nonpartisan nonprofit working across the region to protect our most precious resource: the fresh, clean, and natural waters of the Great Lakes. For more information, visit  

About Ocean Conservancy   

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. 


Don Carr, Media Director, Alliance for the Great Lakes,, +1 (651) 395-4270
Roya Fox, Communications Manager, Ocean Conservancy,, +1 (206) 948-7874

Great Lakes Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution is a serious problem for the Great Lakes. Learn more about plastic pollution and how to stop it.

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