2017 Issues to tackle

Stemming the plastic tide

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An estimated 10,000 metric tons of plastic debris enters the Great Lakes annually, with Lake Erie receiving about a quarter of that alone. Much of this plastic washes up along the shores in the form of shopping bags, beverage bottles and other containers. Most of what remains in the water consists of micro-plastics from personal care products, fibres from cigarette butts and fragments degraded from larger products. Micro-plastics are of particular concern because little is known about their impacts on human and environmental health. Cleaning up existing plastic pollution and preventing more from being generated are both critical to ensuring safe water, clean beaches and healthy habitats across Lake Erie.

Ideas for solutions
• Identify and inventory key sources of various types of plastic pollution (bottles, bags, fibres, beads, etc.) and track movement through the aquatic environment.
• Intercept various types of plastics as close to sources as possible. Examples: removal of micro-fibres from laundry water, intercepting plastics that enter the stormwater conveyance system (pipes and urban streams) and removal in wastewater treatment systems.
• Support clean-up efforts by developping models identifing coastal areas most susceptible to large amounts of plastics washing up on shore.