Don’t let the Great Lakes become the next Great Garbage Patch

You may have seen in the news recently that a man has set out on a six month journey to swim across the Pacific Ocean. He will be swimming through what is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area of accumulated waste three times the size of France, to bring attention to the mass amounts of plastic waste polluting our oceans. This issue has been getting more media attention lately, but it’s nothing new. Just this year, a sperm whale was found dead after swallowing over sixty pounds of plastic waste. Now that we are witnessing the consequences of plastic pollution in ocean waters, Canadians want to know how the problem can be solved. World leaders at the recent G7 meeting discussed ways to improve the health of the world’s oceans, but our government has not made real progress on this issue.

One way individuals can make a difference is by limiting our consumption of single use plastics, such as straws, bags, and bottles. Many people already bring reusable bags to do their shopping and carry a reusable water bottle with them, but there are more steps you can take. If you’re eating at a restaurant, remember to ask your waiter for drinks without plastic straws, and if you can, take your coffee without a lid. But the effects of individual choices are lessened when governments don’t take action. The city of Vancouver recently passed a resolution banning plastic straws in that city, the government might consider actions like this at the federal level, keeping in mind the needs of people with disabilities who rely on these straws.

It may seem like a lot of work at first, but the consequences if we continue on the current path are alarming. Scientists have predicted by the year 2050, there will be more plastic floating in the oceans than fish that swim in it. This will threaten fishing and other industries that depend on healthy oceans for their economic livelihoods. The good news is we can act now to prevent that prediction from coming true, and to protect the Canadian industries that rely on our aquatic system.

Closer to home, plastic pollution is also one of the important problems affecting the Great Lakes aquatic system, though it has received less attention. Just as the oceans are important to Canada’s coastal regions, the Great Lakes are vital to Ontario’s economy. They support commercial fisheries, tourism jobs, and a full quarter of Canada’s population relies on healthy Great Lakes for their drinking water. This illustrates that regulating plastics to reduce the amount of pollution in our waterways is good for everyone.

In the last parliament, an NDP motion brought about a ban on microbeads in commercial products, and now it’s time to turn our attention to mitigating the effects of other plastics to protect our waterways. Without action, we can assume we’ll see more and more garbage in our aquatic systems like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

If you want to show your support, you can sign a petition calling for plastic-free oceans by creating clean-up projects, reducing use of ‘single use’ plastics, and educating Canadians on the environmental impacts of plastic pollution You can add your name by visiting: www.ndp.ca/oceans-plastic