The Great Lakes, Michigan’s most iconic feature, are being decimated. According to the Rochester Institute of Technology, 22 million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes every year, which has devastating effects on the Lakes. Thousands of fish die yearly from swallowing plastic, and many more are mutated by the chemical phthalates found in commercial plastics. Eventually all of this comes back to hurt us because toxic materials in plastic transfer to a fish’s tissues, which humans consume. We ingest polluted seafood, which makes us sick more often, causing people to lose money to medical bills. As any sane person knows, ingesting poison is bad.
So why is the government not doing anything significant to fix the Great Lakes? I think you know the answer: bureaucracy and incompetent politicians stall on fixing this problem. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has set aside around $60 million dollars to help clean up the Great Lakes, and while it is a good start, President Trump has stopped her from making a significant impact.
You might be asking yourself, what are some other solutions to this problem? There is no easy fix, but there are actions we can take. For one, individual consumers can scale back their plastic consumption. The government can put in regulations that force companies to start using less plastic and more biodegradable materials. When people talk about the 3 Rs, reduce, reuse, and recycle, they don’t give enough attention to reduce and reuse. We also need to improve our recycling habits. According to the EPA, Americans only recycle 35% of all goods. In order for the Lakes to get better, the government and people need to improve this system. In addition to that, we need volunteers to help remove the plastic currently in the Lakes. There are different programs such as the Michigan Volunteer River, Stream and Creek Cleanup Program, and personal clean-up sets for individuals. To set this in motion, we need to call our lawmakers, call our governor, and constantly plead with them until they implement this.
While these things will not completely heal the Great Lakes, as we’ve not even touched the algae problem, it will go a long way to restoring them to their former glory. There are other actions that need to be taken, but this is a fantastic start.
Barlow-Weinstein Group, “22 million pounds of plastics enter the Great Lakes each year. Most of the pollution pours into Lake Michigan,” Rochester Institute of Technology, September 4, 2019. https://www.rit.edu/bwgroup/news/22-million-pounds-plastics-enter-great-lakes-each-year-most-pollution-pours-lake-michigan
Matthew Savoca, “The Bad News is that Fish are Eating Lots of Plastic. Even Worse, they may like it,” Washington Post, September 4, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/the-bad-news-is-that-fish-are-eating-lots-of-plastic-even-worse-they-may-like-it/2017/09/01/54159ee8-8cc6-11e7-91d5-ab4e4bb76a3a_story.html
Kathleen Gray, “Whitmer budget puts focus on Great Lakes water levels, contaminated sites,” Detroit Free Press, February 6, 2020. https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/2020/02/06/whitmer-great-lakes-erosion-budget/4680936002/
Melissa Nann Burke, “Trump budget again slashes aid to Great Lakes cleanup program,” The Detroit News, March 11, 2019. https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2019/03/11/trump-budget-proposal-michigan-impact/3129422002/
EPA writers and editors, “Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures,” epa.gov, November 15, 2019. https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/advancing-sustainable-materials-management-0