Environmentalists address plastics pollution in Great Lakes

Dec 13, 2016

Every year, hundreds of volunteers work to clear plastic bags and other garbage from areas along the Great Lakes and its tributaries.

It’s an effort that takes place through the Alliance for the Great Lakes. The group leads clean-up events in cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago.

ANGELICA A. MORRISON / A used water bottle floats in a creek in the Great Lakes watershed.

This year, the group's workers collected 431 plastic bags in the western New York region.  Across the Great Lakes Basin, over 15,000 single-use plastic bags.

"So it’s definitely a part of the problem," said Nate Drag, who spearheads the group's program in Western New York. "There’s a lot of other plastic stuff out there. I wouldn’t say bags are the number one item but they’re there and they’re visible and they can entangle wildlife.

"When you go to the beach and you see visible debris like that, it discourages people from being stewards of the beach. It discourages people from coming back to the beach. It has a social and economic impact as well as ecological."

Drag says about 39,000 pounds of trash was collected across the Great Lakes states this year.

A community discussion about bags and other plastic pollution will take place at 6 p.m., Dec. 14, at the Tewksbury Lodge, 249 Ohio Street in Buffalo. Update: the discussion has been canceled due to the snowstorm.