Microplastics at ‘alarming levels’ in Canadian lakes and rivers

image: Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, via Ottawa Riverkeeper

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 the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.

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