By Abigail Haller, Screening Integration Coordinator
The Great Lakes are home to thousands of plant and animal species, along with Michigan’s beautiful beaches and landscapes. These features are not the only factors that make the Great Lakes significant. The Environment Protection Agency states that the Great Lakes make up 84% of North America’s surface fresh water; that is a lot of water and, unfortunately, a lot of pollution. One of the largest types of pollution is from plastic.
The plastic pollution level usually references ocean pollution instead of Great Lakes pollution, but there is a difference. According to Alliance for the Great Lakes, there are five key differences between the pollution in the oceans and the pollution in the Great Lakes. One difference is the Great Lakes provide drinking water to approximately 40 million people. In that drinking water, there are tiny microplastics that have been broken down and escaped the filtering process. Ultimately, these microplastics end up in our bodies.
Another difference is the way pollution is transferred. In the ocean, the currents carry pollution from all over the world, which can eventually wash up onto the shorelines. In the Great Lakes, pollution is either being dumped directly into the lakes from industrial environments, or is being deposited from the shorelines, and even local watersheds. Once the toxic substances make their way into the lakes, they travel downstream, eventually making their way into the ocean.
There are many efforts taking place to minimize the pollution we are creating and to clean up pollution from the past. Despite these efforts, it simply isn’t enough for only a portion of our population to help. If each person made a conscious effort to minimize plastic waste, we could really make a difference.
For all of us in Michigan, when you travel, do your part to prevent pollution.
- Pick up trash and dispose of it properly.
- Encourage others to clean up after themselves.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle plastic waste.
- Make biodegradable, alternative choices when possible.
- And lastly, take the time to appreciate the gift of the Great Lakes!
Take the Plastic-Free Great Lakes Pledge today!