Microplastics at ‘alarming levels’ in Canadian lakes and rivers

image above from Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, via Ottawa Riverkeeper

April 2022 – As reported by Georgian Bay Forever, a new study by UK researchers “contributes to the evidence that plastic particles have not just pervaded throughout the environment, but are pervading our bodies too,” said Alice Horton, anthropogenic contaminants scientist at Britain’s National Oceanography Center. She told the Science Media Center the study “unequivocally” proved there was microplastics in blood.”

More info in the article quoted here: http://ow.ly/vFI350ItO3v.

Study here: http://ow.ly/Z3Kt50ItO3

Bill 228 Keeping Polystyrene Out of Ontario’s Lakes and Rivers Act, 2021, was passed at third reading with the support of all parties on May 13, 2021


March 22, 2021 – FOCA appears at the the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills to speak in support of Bill 228, alongside the Georgian Bay Association, and Georgian Bay Forever.

March 26, 2021 – MPP Miller’s private members bill aiming to reduce dock foam ordered for third reading (MyMuskokaNow)

March 25th, 2021 – Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations Backing Bill Banning Styrofoam From New Docks (MyBancroftNow)

February 23, 2021 – The Ontario Legislature unanimously passed Second Reading of Bill 228, Keeping Polystyrene Out of Ontario’s Lakes and Rivers Act. Bill 228 has now been referred to Committee.

May 12, 2021 – Regulatory Actions to Plastic Pollution in Canada closer with addition of “Plastic Manufactured Items” to CEPA Toxic Substances List  (CELA)

A proposed integrated management approach to plastic products: discussion paper (Government of Canada)
October 13, 2020 –  Canada Announces Intention to Add “Plastic Manufactured Items” to List of Toxic Substances (Bennett Jones)
Canada’s Proposed Order to Add “Plastic Manufactured Items” to Schedule 1 (the Toxic Substances List) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) (US Department of Commerce)

April 2021 – the Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR) has announced the creation of Circular Great Lakes, a regional initiative focused initially on keeping valuable plastic materials out of the waste stream and the environment in this vital, binational economic region. Priorities include driving the systemic changes necessary to close the loop for plastics in the region, setting the stage for targeted actions and partnerships over the next five years.

April 29, 2021 – Fish have been swallowing microplastics since the 1950s  (Eureka Alert)

April 19, 2021 – First Reading of Bill 279, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act to prohibit washing machines without microplastics filters

April 9, 2021 – webinar recap: Plastic Pollution in the Great Lakes. FOCA attended this webinar hosted by Ohio Sea Grant. The speakers confirmed that our

plastic waste is  entering aquatic ecosystems at alarming rates: recent estimates were 10,000 metric tonnes  per year, but projections show that could rise to as high as 90,000 metric tonnes by 2030, unless changes are made. Access the slides and event recording here. 



April 2021 – FOCA is quoted in this article about Bill 228 (Cottage Life)


February 11, 2021 – The Toxics Free Great Lakes Binational Network in collaboration with the Canadian Environmental Law Association’s Healthy Great Lakes Program invite you to join a binational webinar on plastic pollution in the Great Lakes Basin. (CELA) Register here.

November 5, 2020 – Muskoka-Parry Sound MPP Norm Miller  Bill 228: Keeping Polystyrene Out of Ontario’s Lakes and Rivers Act, a Private Member’s Bill designed to address plastic pollution caused by foam dock floatation. Dock foam litter has become one of the biggest pollutants in our freshwater lakes, and this Bill (when passed) will require all polystyrene floatation to be fully encapsulated to prevent it breaking up and polluting the waters. See FOCA’s letter of support.

March 10, 2020 – Microplastics are a Potential Vector for Chemical Contaminants (IJC)

November 5, 2019 – Eastern Ontario lakes test positive for microplastics (Watersheds Canada news release & report)

August 21, 2018 – Beer, Drinking Water And Fish: Tiny Plastic Is Everywhere (Great Lakes Today)

July 2, 2018 – Most toiletries with microplastics no longer for sale in Canada (CTV News)

May 16, 2017 – Quantifying Plastics in Canada’s Aquatic Landscapes: Rigour and Repetition
Is there a plastic takeover happening in Canada’s fresh water? (Canadian Science Publishing)

Microplastic contamination in Lake Winnipeg comparable to Lake Erie (Environmental Pollution, Volume 225, June 2017)

February 14, 2017 – Commission Makes Recommendations on Great Lakes Microplastic  (Water Canada)

FULL REPORT (February 2017): International Joint Commission’s Recommendations on Microplastics in the Great Lakes (PDF, 0.6 MB)

Excerpt: Improvement in waste management is key to reducing plastic debris in the aquatic environment: reduce or eliminate the release of plastics; lids for recycling bins; strategic placement of trash and recycling containers in public areas;  market-based bans and fees for single- use plastic items (e.g., bags, water bottles); enforcement of litter laws; bottle redemption programs may prove to be useful tools to reduce marine plastic debris.

December 30, 2016 – researchers estimate 10,000 tonnes of plastics enters the Great Lakes annually (Water Canada)

November 13, 2016  – Microfibers emerging as new environmental threat as Canada moves toward banning microbeads (National Post)

November 5, 2016 – Canada’s ban (Canada Gazette, Vol. 150, No. 45 )

October 26, 2016 – Plastic fibers emerge as Great Lakes pollutant (Great Lakes Echo)

August 24, 2016 – Ottawa Riverkeeper scientists on the lookout for microplastics (CBC Ottawa) Note: Segment starts at 30:35 of clip

August 8, 2016 – Government needs to recognize the growing issue of microplastics (CBC News)

June 30, 2016 – Microbeads listed as ‘toxic substance’ en route to ban (CBC)

November 28, 2015 – What Comes Out in the Wash toxicological and ecological studies links micro- and nano-size debris to disease and mortality in humans and wildlife (New York Times)

July 20, 2015 – Source: CBC News

A 2014 study of the U.S. Great Lakes by the 5 Gyres Institute found an average of 43,000 microplastic particles per square kilometre.

The plastic particles include microbeads, which are found in toothpaste and facial scrubs, but also other sources.

Several US states, including Illinois and California, have already moved forward with a ban. New York State is also considering a ban, upon discovering that microbeads were present in 74 percent of water samples taken from 34 municipal and private treatment plants across New York State.  This might not be surprising, given that in that state alone more than 19 tons of microbeads go down the drain every year.

In March 2015 the House of Commons voted unanimously in favour of a motion to list microbeads as a toxic substance under the Environmental Protection Act, but the beads are not yet banned in this country.

There are many other sources of microplastics in our waters, too, which include:

  • Rope
  • Fishing nets
  • Floats
  • Packaging
  • Cigarette filters
  • Storm drains and street litter
  • Plastic sheeting or tubing
  • Plastics production or other industrial sources

Read  the original CBC report on the Great Lakes plastics research here.

Other plastics news

October 8, 2015 – California Becomes Latest State to Ban Plastic Microbeads (NY Times)

New campaign to reduce plastic waste underway after 3/4 of the fish in the Thames River (UK) are found to have plastic in their guts: Cleaner Thames

Terry ReesMicroplastics at ‘alarming levels’ in Canadian lakes and rivers