Troubled Waters: Plastic Waste and the Great Lakes - Oshki

Troubled Waters: Plastic Waste and the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes, cherished as valuable natural treasures in North America, span two countries. However, they're threatened by a major problem: plastic pollution.

Annually, millions of tons of plastic waste accumulate in the Great Lakes, tarnishing their beauty and threatening their ecological balance. This influx includes discarded bottles, bags, and fragments, posing a grave danger to the delicate ecosystems.

The plastic pollution crisis in the Great Lakes presents a complex and far-reaching threat to both the environment and the communities reliant on these waters. As custodians of these vital resources, it is our responsibility to address this crisis and protect the integrity of the Great Lakes for future generations.

The Environmental Impact of Plastic Pollution in the Great Lakes

Plastic pollution is a significant problem in the Great Lakes, with more than 22 million pounds of plastic waste entering the lakes each year, according to a study by the Rochester Institute of Technology. This not only damages the lakes' beauty but also harms their ecosystems.

Plastic pollution in the Great Lakes threatens aquatic life and contaminates drinking water sources for over 40 million people who rely on the lakes for clean water. Plastic pollution also exacerbates existing environmental issues, amplifying the effects of pollutants. It can act as a carrier for harmful substances, worsening impacts on aquatic ecosystems and altering sedimentation processes.

The widespread presence of plastic pollution highlights the urgent need to address plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Besides harming the environment, plastic pollution can also pose health risks to humans through contaminated water and seafood. Therefore, reducing plastic waste in the Great Lakes is crucial to protect both the environment and the well-being of the millions of people who depend on these freshwater sources.

The Urgent Need for More Sustainable Solutions

In the face of this environmental catastrophe, urgent action is required. The current rates of plastic recycling are alarmingly low, with a mere 9% of all plastic being reused. This inefficient recycling process exacerbates the problem of plastic pollution, as the majority of plastic waste ends up in landfills or polluting the environment. Most recently, a major bill was introduced to renew funding for Great Lakes restoration over the next five years.

The bill dedicates $500 million annually to support the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – which includes projects that help clean up toxic hotspots, reduce harmful algal blooms, prevent the establishment and spread of invasive species, and restore habitats for various fish and wildlife. This is a huge step in the right direction, but we have to keep walking. One way is through smarter consumerism and sustainability. 

For example, more sustainable fashion in particular offers a multifaceted approach to addressing the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry. By prioritizing the use of recycled materials, more sustainable fashion reduces the demand for a variety of resources, thereby alleviating the strain on natural ecosystems and diminishing the carbon footprint associated with manufacturing processes.

Embracing more sustainable fashion options can be a step toward reducing some of the environmental implications of unsustainable, fash fashion and its production and shipping. 

What are WE doing about this?

Our company is the brainchild of someone who cares deeply about combating plastic pollution in the Great Lakes through innovative solutions. At Oshki, we have embarked on a mission to transform plastic waste into stylish, sustainable clothing. By partnering with recycling centers and manufacturing facilities, Oshki converts post-consumer plastic, some of which was collected right off the beaches of Lake Michigan, into high-quality apparel, all while maintaining transparency and supporting local economies.

The Final Takeaway

The plastic pollution crisis in the Great Lakes demands immediate attention and action. Through the work we’re doing at Oshki, we can all help turn the tide on plastic pollution and protect these invaluable freshwater resources for future generations. It's time for individuals and communities to join the fight against plastic pollution and embrace sustainable solutions. Together, we can safeguard the Great Lakes and pave the way for a cleaner, healthier planet.


  • Duane Bontrager

    Great idea! We need to do everything we can to preserve our Great Lakes. This business model is a big step forward in that direction.

  • Robin Konieczka

    Where can I volunteer

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