By Meghan Rice
We know that plastic pollutes our oceans and shores, from the fact that we see garbage littered on the beaches and shorelines, and we hear about the dangerous effects of pollution on the environment. It is a real problem. However, few of us realize that plastic pollution plagues our lakes as well.
The Great Lakes are the world’s largest freshwater resource, and the spread of plastics works differently there than in the oceans. Researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) have found alarming amounts of plastic in the Great Lakes, a serious cause for concern. The numbers are terrifying. 100 Olympic sized pools worth of garbage are added to the Great Lakes each year!
The situation is complicated by a couple other factors: one, most of the plastic is in the form of microplastics, a more dangerous form of plastic than larger pieces that would take about 100 pieces to cover a penny. These plastics are found in products like face wash and detergent. Microplastics are more dangerous because they shed dangerous chemicals into the water. The study also found that there was still a lot of plastic debris at the surface of the water that causes damage to wildlife, especially birds. Because of the currents, a lot of garbage is entering the lakes from Chicago or Milwaukee, as well as Toronto, so the researches are concerned that prevention is complicated by the interstate and international span of the problem.
The way we can fix this problem is by researching water currents and methods of prevention, but also for each of us to do our part. It is ridiculous, this problem is a widespread and developing crisis. Please be aware of the harm plastic pollution causes, not just to our oceans, but also to our Great Lakes, and lakes all over the world.