The International Joint Commission (IJC) has a released a report and recommendations to the governments of Canada and the United States regarding microplastics in the Great Lakes.

Citing growing evidence that significant amounts of small pieces of plastic are entering the Great Lakes, the IJC has recommended several actions to prevent their entrance.

At an IJC workshop addressing microplastics in Windsor on April 26–27, 2016, 33 experts from Canada and the United States reviewed the latest science and policy findings and developed draft recommendations. Following a public comment period last fall, the IJC reached recommendations in four categories: a binational plan, science, pollution prevention, and education and outreach.

  • Develop standardized sampling and analytical methods.
  • Develop a transport model to determine the source and fate of microplastics.
  • Assess potential ecological and human health impacts.
  • Invest in research for source reduction, improved recycling, and reduced release of plastic pollution.
  • Market-based incentives and disincentives to effectively reduce plastic pollution.
  • Adoption of policies promoting life-cycle responsibility of plastic producers and support state, provincial, and local policies to reduce plastic pollution.
  • Funding for the comparison and analysis of existing programs for effectiveness and promote those that work well.
  • Funding for local programs and organizations that provide educational outreach to reduce plastics and microplastics from entering the Great Lakes.

Recent research suggested that 10,000 tonnes of plastic enters the Great Lakes each year, as Water Canada reported in December.

As several organizations and programs can contribute to the control and prevention of microplastics entering the Great Lakes, the IJC recommends that officials engage with a diverse set of stakeholders from both countries to gave effect to these recommendations.

The IJC’s responsibilities include reporting on progress made under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the nations toward restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Great Lakes and connecting waters. The IJC is currently preparing its first assessment of progress made by the governments to restore and protect the Great Lakes under the 2012 Agreement. Citizens can participate in the process through to April 15, 2017 and can learn more online at

For more information on microplastics in the Great Lakes, see the full report.


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