CHICAGO — Some 11 million pounds of plastic debris — enough to fill 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools — ends up in Lake Michigan every year, a new study says.
Major population centers are the primary sources of plastic pollution, with the researchers citing Chicago and Milwaukee.
"Most of the particles from Chicago and Milwaukee end up accumulating on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan," said Matthew Hoffman of the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Hoffman used computer models to to follow plastic debris in Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes. Some heavy plastics sink but microbeads used in cosmetics and cleaning products, plastic fragments, fishing line and Styrofoam float on the surface and are consumed by wildlife, he said in a press release.
Unlike in oceans, where plastics accumulate as part of "garbage patches," plastic in the Great Lakes is carried by winds and lake currents to shorelines, he said. Plastic accounts for some 80 percent of the litter on shorelines in the Great Lakes, Hoffman added.
Commenting on the study, Anna Cummins, co-founder and global strategy director of 5 Gyres Institute, said plastics entering waterways is an example of "a serious design flaw."
"We are manufacturing products that have no recovery plan or value after they leave consumer's hands," Cummins told ecowatch.com.
"Just as we demand that people dispose of their trash properly, we must also demand that companies take responsibility for the end life of their products," Cummins said.
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