Take a dip in the Great Lakes these days, and you might get more than you bargained for. That’s because, in addition to the water, fish and plant life you might normally expect, the region’s waterways are increasingly clogged with plastic debris, according to researchers.
The phenomenon is nothing new. For years, scientists have looked on in alarm as garbage patches, constituted mainly of plastic particles resistant to natural decomposition and consolidated by underwater currents, have grown at alarming rates in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as off the remote coasts of Antarctica. The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” the most famous example of water pollution run amok, is by some estimates twice the size of Texas.
“The massive production of plastic and inadequate disposal has made plastic debris an important and constant pollutant on beaches and in oceans around the world,” said Lorena M. Rios Mendoza, a University of Wisconsin-Superior scientist researching the impact of such pollution, in a statement to the press. “[T]he Great Lakes are not an exception.”