Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Plastic Debris in the Great Lakes

Being located pretty close to North America's Continental Pole of Inaccessibility [1], I can sleep well at night knowing that my trash is not ending up in the oceans, adding to any of the various "Garbage Patches" that are constantly in the news. (Besides, most of the trash here in town is incinerated and used to generate electricity.) Getting to the ocean is a major trip and not something that I think of other than as a distant environment.

Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes are quite the opposite. Superior is just a two hour drive from here and I've been along its shores many times, truly a beautiful shoreline. Lake Michigan is about 5 hours from here and I've been to its shore quite a bit for business and pleasure, and is a beautiful front yard for the city of Chicago. It also serves as a major obstacle in travel to the state of Michigan. All of which builds to my point here: that the Great Lakes are very much part of my semi)-immediate environment. As such, I was saddened to hear that people are finding balls of natural and synthetic materials washing up on the shoreline in Duluth.
Affectionately known as "whale burps" (even though there are no whales in the Great Lakes) [2], they occur in oceans and are formed by the action of waves on these materials while in the lake.

I don't think anyone is going to be imagining a "Great Lakes Garbage Patch" anytime soon, but regardless, plastic garbage has no business being in the lakes (or anywhere else in the natural environment).

[1] And we pay the price by the near impossibility of finding fresh fish at the grocery store.

[2] Names are not the strong point for Minnesotans. Aspen Research is located in the city of White Bear Lake, and there are no polar bears to be found here.

1 comment:

Deanna Ford said...


Thanks for posting this and introducing me to whale burps. I have been prepping a talk I'm giving tomorrow about plastic in the oceans and was wondering about what was in the lake nearby....Lake Superior. I'm up in Thunder Bay but passed through Duluth just this past weekend! Lovely country.

cheers and thanks,