Chicago, IL – The Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR), as part of its Circular Great Lakes initiative, released an innovative five-year circular economy strategy and action plan for plastics. The organization worked in collaboration with a number of corporate stakeholders in the plastics value chain as well as government, academic, and NGO partners to develop the plan. The aim is to forge a future without plastic packaging waste and litter in the bi-national Great Lakes region, the engine of the North American economy and guardian of the largest freshwater system in the world.

“Plastic is a versatile material that is used widely in our industries and homes as consumers, but it should never become waste in our economy or litter in our environment,” said Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the Council of the Great Lakes Region. “Through the Circular Great Lakes initiative, we are convening business, government, academic, and NGO leaders to drive and deliver the systems change needed to close the loop and accelerate the transition to a circular economy for plastics in this critical region to the United States and Canada.”

Over 80%, or 12.8 million tons, of recyclable plastic packaging materials are being landfilled every year, effectively throwing out $1.7 billion (~CA$2.1 billion) worth of reusable plastics. Even worse, plastic material is polluting the Great Lakes and our regional environment in the form of litter.

Operating in tandem with other zero plastic waste measures, a modern and effective recycling system is a key component of closing the loop and eliminating plastic marine debris. Yet, too many Great Lakes households still do not have access to recycling options. Additionally, regional recycling rules differ, with policies in many places still favoring a throw-away economy and recycling system infrastructure is aging and lacks investments in advanced materials management practices.

To tackle these issues facing the region, the Circular Great Lakes strategy and action plan centers around three key priorities as the initiative moves from vision to action:

  • Priority One: Clean up and end plastic waste and litter from entering the Great Lakes watershed, earth’s largest freshwater system.
  • Priority Two: Accelerate development of plastic packaging recycling supply chains and markets, with a focus on flexible plastics.
  • Priority Three: Achieve a step change in plastics recycling quantity and quality through policy, consumer behavior, and investments in infrastructure and advanced technologies.

Partnerships in the Circular Great Lakes initiative continue to grow and currently include eight corporate partners (Charter Next Generation, Dow Inc., Imperial, Pregis, Meijer, American Packaging Corporation, Dart, and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.) and 30 academic, non-profit, and government knowledge partners such as the NOAA Marine Debris Program. All stakeholders are invited to contact CGLR for more information on how to get involved.


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