Plastics account for approximately 80 percent of the litter on the shorelines of the Great Lakes, according to a new study by the Rochester Institute of Technology.
The study estimates 22 million pounds of plastic ends up in the water every year. It also shows debris in the Great Lakes travels in a different pattern than in the oceans. The oceans have floating "garbage patches," but plastics in the Great Lakes are carried by wind and lake currents to shore, and often end up in another state or Canada. Lead study author Matthew Hoffman says it's the first picture of the true scale of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes.
The study shows that more than half of the plastic pollution goes into Lake Michigan, followed by Erie and Ontario. Hoffman's team used mathematical models to determine the sources and end points of the pollution. It shows cities like Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Toronto pollute the most. Last year, scientists discovered masses of floating plastic particles in lakes Superior, Huron and Erie. This summer, they're expanding the search to lakes Michigan and Ontario.