Preventing Plastic in the Great Lakes

Posted Tue, 03/09/2021 - 11:00

The Great Lakes region, with its complex habitats, is no stranger to environmental problems. Organizations have been working for many years to address issues like chemical contaminants, invasive species, and harmful algal blooms. Many of these same organizations are now Great Lakes champions, working to tackle the problem of plastics! 

Like most environmental problems, the best way to address plastics in the Great Lakes is to prevent them in the first place. Our newest partners are working hard to make an impact to reduce the amount of plastics entering our precious Great Lakes. The Shedd Aquarium is working with the food service industry on a Let's Shedd Plastic campaign to measurably reduce single-use plastics used in restaurants in Chicago communities. The project is partnering with minority and women-owned businesses and small businesses to change business practices, educate staff and customers, and support business leaders in adopting new sustainability efforts.

Two penguins eating fish from a mug.
Rockhopper penguins enjoying a snack out of a reusable mug (Photo: Shedd Aquarium).

Young leaders are also key to making change in our future plastic use. The Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan and the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative are leading efforts to engage 500 youth across Northeast Michigan with a “Food for Thought” project. Working directly with teachers and the Michigan State University Extension, students are examining the types of waste they find in their communities and schools, and then using their findings to develop potential solutions to reduce waste and ultimately prevent marine debris. Visit our blog later this week to learn more about this project!

A collection of assorted plastic lake debris.
Single-use plastics removed from the Great Lakes (Photo: NOAA).

Together, partners are diligently working with businesses, communities, and schools to keep the Great Lakes free from plastic debris through sustainable business practices, awareness campaigns, and a commitment to reducing waste. It is with these efforts that we will make a difference in the future health of our Great Lakes!

Preventing Plastic in the Great Lakes

Posted Tue, 03/09/2021 - 11:00

For citation purposes, unless otherwise noted, this article was authored by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

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Thu, 04/01/2021 - 13:38

Soooooo glad to see and hear that our children and our communities are know taking care of our problem with plastic!


Thu, 04/01/2021 - 15:49

During a visit to Petoskie, Michigan last summer I spent time picking up plastic debris, most of it was shredded pieces of plastic bags--chip bags, wrapper, ziploc bags. I was so disheartened to see this much plastic garbage that had been chopped up into smaller bits that makes clean up harder. Is there a way to educate boaters to dispose of their trash before it blows off and cut up by their motor's prop?

Hi KSera,
I saw your comment and wanted to make you aware of our Clean Boater program in Ohio - even though we don’t have a counterpart in Ohio, we have many educational materials that apply to a boater wherever they are. Check out our Clean Boater YouTube playlist ( or find us on Facebook at OhioCleanMarinasCleanBoaters. Also the BoatUS Foundation has a great Clean Boater course as well: Hope this helps!