Great Lakes Fish Say “Go Plastic Free” in July: 6 Tips

In the final days of June, the heat is on. During these dog-days of summer, many folks will take the opportunity to cool off in a nearby swimmin’ hole. Americans value clean rivers, lakes, and reservoirs—83% worry a “fair amount” about the impact of pollution on these waters.

Lake Erie Sunset. Photo by Flickr user Jesiehart.
Lake Erie Sunset. Photo by Flickr user Jesiehart.
Apparently Australians do too. In 2011, the Western Metropolitan Regional Council in Perth, Australia launched its “Plastic-Free July” initiative. This year, the challenge is going global. The premise is simple: for one full month, don’t use single-use plastic.

Several U.S. cities already encourage the switch from plastic bags to reusable by implementing a per-bag fee. But bags aren’t the only source of plastic pollution. Think of how many lids, straws, cups, and takeout containers wind up in urban garbage cans each day.

It turns out one culprit may be in your shower! Researchers are finding significant amounts of “microplastics”—less than a millimeter in diameter—in the Great Lakes. Many of the tiny fragments are perfectly round beads from exfoliating cosmetic products like body washes and hand soaps.

In addition, Great Lakes researchers found elevated levels of an alphabet soup of toxic chemicals linked to human health problems: Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) including polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The science suggests these chemicals may be clinging to the plastics.

Recyclable plastics. Photo by Tony Alter, flickr user TobyOtter.
Recyclable plastics. Photo by Tony Alter, Flickr user TobyOtter.
For the sake of the Great Lakes and your local fishing spot, here are six tips to limit plastic pollution this summer:

  • Pledge to go plastic-free for July. It’s one month. Give it a try.
  • Keep a reusable bag at your desk at work and another in the trunk of your car. That way you’re prepared for last minute unexpected errands.
  • Get two reusable water bottles. Keep at least one in the refrigerator so it’s cold and ready when you’re on the go.
  • Go topless: When you order a soda to go, ask for no lid and no straw.
  • Shower smart: Know what’s in your bath products. Companies like Burt’s Bees and St. Ives use natural exfoliants and others are making the switch.
  • Buy big: Look for the larger bottles of products you use often—like sunscreen or shampoo. This can save you money in the long-run and cut down on packaging waste.

Do you have ideas on cutting out plastic? Share them in comments below so others can learn from your experience.