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President Trump’s lawyer due in court today. Also on our rundown: HUD Secretary Ben Carson proposes raising the rent on low-income families; plus we will look at efforts to address addiction in Ohio: what’s working, and what’s not.

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Plastic Pollution Threatens Ecosystem in Great Lakes

Shoppers can help reduce plastic waste in the Great Lakes by skipping plastic. (noaa.gov)
Shoppers can help reduce plastic waste in the Great Lakes by skipping plastic. (noaa.gov)
January 16, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Advocates are hoping 2018 is a year of better water quality in the Great Lakes and oceans.

Carolyn Box, the Science Program Director with 5 Gyres, says by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the water than fish, with 95 percent of it coming from land. That trash ends up in storm drains and rivers then flows into the Great Lakes and oceans.

She says plastic is trapped within currents, taking at least 10 years to cycle back out, if it doesn't get eaten by marine life or sink to the bottom.

"It's breaking down from wave action and sunlight, so it's breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces, and it's also attracting other contaminants to the plastic itself, which is making those pieces of plastic more toxic," she explains.

Box says more people are talking about plastic waste, and companies are taking baby steps to eliminate it. There's a petition drive on Change.org asking Royal Carribean International to reduce the use of disposable plastic utensils. The group The Last Plastic Straw says on average, each person in the U.S. uses about 38,000 straws between the ages of 5 and 65.

Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law the Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015, which amended the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to ban personal-care products containing plastic microbeads. The Alliance for the Great Lakes says that's not enough. Microbeads only make up 16 percent of the plastic pollution. Box says microfibers also are under a lot of scrutiny because they can cause a lot of damage to the ecosystem.

"Synthetic clothing is now shedding plastic into our waterways, so it's going down our sinks and down our drains from our washing machines and heading to the wastewater treatment plants and making its way out into the waterways," she adds.

Box says lawmakers and businesses need to step up, but individuals can help too by buying as little plastic as possible, particularly water bottles. A study by the Rochester Institute of Technology found nearly 10,000 metric tons - or 22 million pounds - of plastic debris enter the Great Lake every year.

Veronica Carter/Shaine Smith, Public News Service - IL