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Council of Great Lakes Region launches bi-national five-year plastics action plan

Plastic pollution of Great Lakes is critical

June 28, 2022  By Ground Water Canada

Chicago –The Council of the Great Lakes Region has released an innovative five-year circular economy strategy and action plan for plastics as part of its Circular Great Lakes initiative.

The organization worked in collaboration with a number of corporate stakeholders in the plastics value chain as well as government, academic, and NGO partners to develop the plan. The aim is to forge a future without plastic packaging waste and litter in the bi-national Great Lakes region, the engine of the North American economy and guardian of the largest freshwater system in the world.

“Plastic is a versatile material that is used widely in our industries and homes as consumers, but it should never become waste in our economy or litter in our environment,” Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the Council of the Great Lakes Region, said. “Through the Circular Great Lakes initiative, we are convening business, government, academic, and NGO leaders to drive and deliver the systems change needed to close the loop and accelerate the transition to a circular economy for plastics in this critical region to the United States and Canada.”


More than 80 per cent, or 12.8 million tons, of recyclable plastic packaging materials are being landfilled every year, effectively throwing out $1.7 billion (~CA$2.1 billion) worth of reusable plastics. Even worse, plastic material is polluting the Great Lakes and regional environment in the form of litter.

Operating in tandem with other zero plastic waste measures, a modern and effective recycling system is a key component of closing the loop and eliminating plastic marine debris. Yet too many Great Lakes households still do not have access to recycling options. Additionally, regional recycling rules differ, with policies in many places still favouring a throw-away economy and recycling system infrastructure is aging and lacks investments in advanced materials management practices.

To tackle these issues facing the region, the Circular Great Lakes strategy and action plan centres around three key priorities as the initiative moves from vision to action:

  • Priority One: Clean up and end plastic waste and litter from entering the Great Lakes watershed, earth’s largest freshwater system.
  • Priority Two: Accelerate development of plastic packaging recycling supply chains and markets, with a focus on flexible plastics.
  • Priority Three: Achieve a step change in plastics recycling quantity and quality through policy, consumer behaviour, and investments in infrastructure and advanced technologies.

Partnerships in the Circular Great Lakes initiative continue to grow and currently include eight corporate partners (Charter Next Generation, Dow Inc., Imperial, Pregis, Meijer, American Packaging Corporation, Dart, and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.) and 30 academic, non-profit, and government knowledge partners such as the NOAA Marine Debris Program. All stakeholders are invited to contact CGLR for more information on how to get involved.

CGLR is a network of organizations comprised of CGLR Foundation, CGLR USA, and CGLR Canada. It is dedicated to creating stronger, more dynamic regional collaborations through dialogue, policy research and programs, and advocacy in order to find new ways of harnessing the bi-national Great Lakes region’s economic strengths and assets, improving the well-being and livelihoods of the region’s citizens, and protecting the environment and the Great Lakes for future generations.

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