Plastic pollution in the Great Lakes has become a growing issue, specifically near busy cities and industries. As people gathered the Lake Ontario waterfront to swim, paddleboard, or admire the view, a research team led by Chelsea Rochman’s students at the University of Toronto were tracking plastic bottles with GPS. The team’s goal is to locate where the plastic ended up, where it accumulates, and where it’s coming from in the first place.
Using the information from their GPS, they chose spots to put seabins, which suck in lake water all day to trap any garbage or debris. The seabins are emptied daily and the team examines the trash collected in the lake. A lot of the waste included takeout containers, clear plastic packaging, and pre-production pellets, produced by the plastic industry.
Rochman explained “They’re the tiny little pellets that are later melted down into plastics and different plastic products,… So we can trace them back to the industry, they have a very distinct look. And then we are now working with industry to try to make sure that they capture them at the source so they don’t come down into the lake.”
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