Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Meet Great Lakes Garbage Patch: Don't Plant Plastic in the Lakes

photo lake erie marine debris NOAA
Credit: NOAA Marine Debris Program.

It's spring planting season in the Midwest. And with planting sometimes comes waste, as in those plastic flats, pots and other items that can end up in a pile after you've finished getting your thumbs green. Some communities are establishing special programs to make sure the plastic leftovers are recycled. The alternative is that they'll end up in a landfill, or be stacked for disposal or storage and blow away into lakes and rivers. Apparently, plant trays and related plastics often aren't accepted at major recycling stations. We've all heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch of floating trash in the ocean. It turns out the five Great Lakes also have garbage patches of their own, fed by plastic debris from waste like discarded planting supplies.

Garden plastic recycling efforts have been launched in northwest Ohio via drop-off sites at greenhouses to keep plastic from being planted in the lakes. Master Gardeners in the state are working with Purpose Green, a post-consumer recycling company that remakes plastic into products for the U.S. market.

plant flats green site.jpg
Credit: Purpose Green LLC.
NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, actually considers marine debris to include the ocean patch AND the Great Lakes, one of which, Lake Erie, borders Ohio to the north.

To remind everyone, the Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system on Earth.

Lake Erie is considered to be the most valuable fishery in the world, but also has the most populated coastline, which makes recycling all the more important, NOAA officials say. The Ohio State University Extension is encouraging other communities to launch similar garden item recycling programs. A larger effort to push manufacturers to use easier-to-recycle or biodegradable plastic wouldn't hurt either.

Happy digging.

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