Environmental expert discusses Great Lakes plastic pollution, changes we can make on Earth Day

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Monday, April 22, 2024
Environmental expert discusses Great Lakes pollution, sustainability
Twenty two million pounds of pollution ends up in the Great Lakes each year. Samira Hanessian joined to discuss why buying sustainable matters.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Monday is Earth Day, and one of the easiest ways to help the environment is to reduce your use of plastic.

Twenty two million pounds of plastic waste end up in the Great Lakes every year. About half of that waste ends up in Lake Michigan alone.

A percentage of that pollution is made up of everyday items, like straws, single-use utensils and grocery bags.

Samira Hanessian, energy policy director with the Illinois Environmental Council, said plastic pollution affects more than just the water we swim in.

"Plastics never fully degrade. They break down into tiny pieces and do end up in our water," she said. "We end up drinking that and taking that into our bodies."

Hanessian suggests swapping single-use plastics for recyclable or reusable products to avoid contributing to the problem.

"Manufacturers are responsible for producing these [single-use plastics], but something we can do in our everyday lives is make some simple switches," she said.

Plastic milk jugs are a common example of a single-use product. Swapping to a brand that uses cartons instead can help cut down on an individual's plastic waste. Similarly, laundry detergents in plastic containers can be swapped out for cartons or powder detergents in boxes.

High waste products like coffee filters also have sustainable options. Hanessian suggested switching to a metal reusable filter, which can be recycled at the end of its life.

Another way to help make a change for the environment is to speak up about the issue.

READ ALSO: The Power of Us: People, Climate and our Future

"Talk to your lawmakers; talk to your elected officials about prioritizing anti-plastic policy," Hanessian said.

The Illinois Environmental Council and the Coalition for Plastic Reduction are hosting a Zero Waste Lobby Day in Springfield on May 15. The free event is an opportunity to bring the issue of plastic use to lawmakers. Find more information at ilenviro.org.