Plastic. It’s in pretty much everything. There is almost no part of your day when you’re not using something made of, or containing plastic. But…we recycle? So, no big deal right? Wrong. It’s a huge deal. While scientists have known for years that the amount of plastic in the oceans is rising, it now looks like it is rising in the Great Lakes as well.
In the summer of 2012, researchers from the State University of New York (SUNY) sailed across the Great Lakes collecting water samples. They were looking to see how much plastic they would find. The researchers, led by Dr. Sherri Mason, found that in two of the 21 samples they collected the concentration levels of plastic was extremely high, greater than 600,000 plastic pieces per square kilometer. Other samples had a much lower concentrations of plastic, nearer 600 plastic pieces per square kilometer.
The researchers were shocked to find that the highest concentration of plastic they observed in the Great Lakes was greater than what has been reported from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is found in a large gyre in the North Pacific Ocean. A gyre is a circular current in the ocean that causes debris to collect and get trapped at its center, where it accumulates.
While Dr. Mason’s research is preliminary and still needs to be processed through the rigorous process of peer-review; these initial findings are a cause for concern.
Plastics end up in our streams, lakes, and oceans due to improper disposal. Littering, as well as misplaced debris during garbage collection and other practices can lead to plastic ending up in our waters. The plastic we find in the water isn’t always a plastic bag, water bottle or toy. These plastics can break down into smaller pieces of microplastic that we may not easily see, but still pollute the water.
Plastic in our oceans and lakes may lead to several problems. Here are two examples:
1) Oceanic and freshwater species may eat the plastics. For example, sea turtles are known to eat floating plastic debris because they mistake it for food, potentially jelly fish. This can cause the sea turtle to become impacted and die.
2) Plastics tend to absorb toxins (PCB’s, DTD’s etc.) that could be transferred to any animal that eats the plastic, and then potentially humans.
So what can YOU do?
Help out our Great Lakes through volunteer beach and shoreline clean up’s. TD’s Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up is a fun event and helps save our Great Lakes!
If you’re interested in learning more about plastic in the ocean the documentary “Addicted to Plastic” is an in-depth look the global plastic problem. This documentary has won numerous awards and is often featured at environmental film festivals all over the world.
What are you doing to reduce your single use plastic? Tell us in the comments below!
Check Out the Trailer Below!!!