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  • Writer's pictureThe Cleanup Team

Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup Shares New Data and Insights for Plastic Free July

Groundbreaking initiative provides update on data collection and community impact in the fight to clean up the waterways of the Great Lakes region.

TORONTO – July 4, 2024 – An initiative that brings together partners from across North America to take action on the plastics pollution problem in the Great Lakes has released its most recent plastic capture data in support of Plastic Free July, highlighting the impact it has had since launching in 2020. The Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup, an initiative of Pollution Probe, the Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR) and the CGLR Foundation in the U.S., uses innovative plastic capture technology to prevent and remove plastic in the Great Lakes from the St. Lawrence to Lake Superior and everywhere in between. 


Since its launch, the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup has been instrumental in collecting much needed data on the types and amount of plastic in the Great Lakes to fill critical information gaps, while also engaging local communities, government, industry and consumers around how we can all work together to end plastic pollution. To complement the release of the most recent data from the 2023 season, the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup website has also been updated, highlighting just some of the initiative’s broader impact to-date.


“Plastic is more than just an eyesore. When it enters our waterways, it can have major impacts on the region’s wildlife and residents,” says Christopher Hilkene, CEO, Pollution Probe. “The Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup has been instrumental in taking action to prevent plastic from finding its way into the environment, ensuring that our Great Lakes are safe and clean so that the people and species residing here can thrive. The initiative has grown exponentially over the past few years and the significant results that we’ve seen to-date are a testament to the importance of working in collaboration with our amazing partners to achieve our common goal of ending plastic pollution in the Great Lakes.”


“The plastics that we use every day as consumers are valuable and should never become litter in our environment and the Great Lakes,” says Mark Fisher, President and CEO of CGLR. “Because of the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup, the largest initiative of its kind in North America, there is not only heightened awareness about the plastic pollution challenge that we face as a region, but there has also been increased action by businesses, government, and consumers to address the problem through stronger policies and regulations, household and local recycling, and the creation of more sustainable consumer packaging.”


To-date the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup has:


  • Reported the removal of over 192K pieces of plastic debris, including bottles, cigarette butts, and food wrappers. The majority of the plastic captured are microplastics, like small plastic fragments, foam pieces and pellets. Technologies are operating even when data is not reported, meaning that a much larger number of plastic pieces has actually been removed.

  • Filtered an estimated 12.2 billion litres of water from the Great Lakes and its waterways using plastic capture technology.

  • Collected 1,800+ data submissions. This information helps understand the sources and types of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. 

  • Engaged over 14.7K people at outreach events, connecting local communities with important information about plastic pollution in the largest freshwater system in the world.

  • Operated at more than 150 sites across the Great Lakes, including the St. Lawrence River and Lake Simcoe, working alongside our 100+ collaborators.

  • Engaged more than 180K people in educational campaigns, from webinars, media coverage, video series, and more.

  • Created 10 community jobs and counting! Local coordinators are strategically located in communities across the Great Lakes. Through these positions, the team works on-the-ground locally to educate about plastic waste in the region.

  • Hosted 130+ volunteer waste characterization events. These events provide opportunities for the public to experience plastic pollution firsthand and to gain hands-on experience sorting through the debris collected.

  • Deployed 135+ plastic capture devices across the binational Great Lakes region.

  • Supported 400+ volunteers in helping to quantify and characterize plastic debris collected by our devices.


Approximately 107 million people call the Great Lakes region home and rely on the ecosystem services provided by the five Great Lakes and other large waterways. The Great Lakes are home to 3,500 species of plants and animals under threat from plastic debris, which accounts for approximately 80% of the litter found on Great Lakes shorelines. It is estimated that a staggering 10 million kilograms of plastic enters the Great Lakes, the largest surface freshwater system on Earth, each year from Canada and the U.S.

For more information on the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup, data on what we’re finding in the lakes and our broader impact across the region, visit, or follow along at @GLPCleanup #GreatLakesPlasticCleanup.



About the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup

The Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup, an initiative of Pollution Probe and the Council of the Great Lakes Region, uses innovative capture technologies to prevent and remove plastic in the Great Lakes, from the St. Lawrence River to Lake Superior and everywhere in between. By analyzing the plastic collected, the initiative provides vital information about pollution sources and pathways, while engaging local communities, government, industry, and consumers around how we can all work together to end plastic pollution. The largest initiative of its kind in North America, the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup is made possible through support from a network of funders and collaborators across the binational Great Lakes region. Visit to learn more.


About Pollution Probe

Pollution Probe is a national, not-for-profit, charitable organization that pursues environmental gains by productively working with governments, industry and the public. With a steadfast commitment to clean air, clean water and a healthy planet, Pollution Probe has been at the forefront of environmental issues and action since its inception in 1969.


About CGLR

CGLR, comprised of CGLR Canada, the CGLR Canada Foundation, CGLR USA, and the CGLR Foundation, is a network of charitable and non-charitable organizations in the binational Great Lakes – St. Lawrence region focused on accelerating the regional transition to a sustainable future by uniquely bringing diverse perspectives and interests together to explore and solve our most pressing socioeconomic and environmental challenges as one North American Great Lakes region. Through its work, CGLR is striving to create the first sustainable region in the world.


For more information please contact:


Lisa Raffaele, Media Partner

Bubblegum Canada

(647) 896-0743


Abby Hansen

Marketing and Communications Coordinator

CGLR Foundation


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