More than 10,000 metric tonnes (22 million pounds) of plastic pollution ends up in the Great Lakes every year, according Rochester Institute of Technology. And growing.
It enters our water as food and beverage containers, clothing fibres, plastic bags, cigarette butts, etc.
However it is difficult to visualize how big a problem this is. For illustrative purposes, let’s assume all of that pollution takes the form of the common 500ml drink size single use plastic water bottle.
Our annual waste now becomes 1 billion bottles. And if strung together end to end, they would circle the world’s equator about 3 ½ times.
Or maybe looking at it in terms more close to home, let’s space those same bottles equally over the surface of Georgian Bay. (15,000 sq. km.) A swimmer enjoying the cool waters of Georgian Bay would never be farther than about 4 m from bottle in all directions, from coast to coast to the Lake Huron boundary.
Unfortunately, the plastic does not go away, but breaks down eventually into pieces small enough to enter aquatic life and our drinking systems.
Estimates suggest that the consumption of plastics will double over the next 25 years.
With the current rate of plastic recycling of recyclable material at about 9%, other measures must be employed to ensure the health of the source of life for over 30 million Great Lakes Basin inhabitants. The Great Lakes represent 84% of North America’s fresh surface water.
The most effective way to reduce the plastic pollution burden is to not manufacture, distribute and dispose of it in the first place. “Single Use” must be questioned and evaluated against reusable and/or degradable products.