Plastic pollution is a growing concern for our waterways. Trent University student Hailey Punt has noticed this problem along Lake Simcoe, a place she calls home. She has realized that plastic was accumulating along the lake shore. This is not only an eye sore to residents around the area, but it is also damaging the lake’s water quality.
Hailey noticed various common types of plastic litter from human uses, including bags, straws, food packaging and bottle caps, and the biggest of them all; plastic water bottles. This motivated her to find solutions.
Photo: Rich Carey/ShutterStock
Hailey points out that plastics in our water bodies is a growing concern for various species. This includes birds and aquatic species that can choke on plastics. In addition, species also ingest the toxic material.
Another issue facing water bodies is microplastics. The quantity of microplastics currently present in our water is alarming. These microplastics are also being digested by our aquatic species at a fast rate.
However, it is not just birds and fish that need to be concerned! Humans can be impacted by plastic because if a predator eats a prey that has ingested plastics, it can transfer to the predator…which can inevitably transfer to humans!!
As part of Trent University’s Waste Management course, Hailey decided to conduct her research project on alternatives to help reduce plastic pollution.
First, she wanted to discover what the public already knew about plastic pollution by conducting a survey.
She asked 50 residents around the Lake Simcoe region various questions that helped determine the awareness about the problem. She found that residents were concerned and interested in learning more about how they could help keep the lake clean.
Second, she worked hard to research alternatives to plastic. Her research discovered various different options, including hemp plastic that can be made to be 100% biodegradeable and “top floating” trashcans that help capture plastics and other debris present in the water.
One alternative to reduce plastic pollution that Hailey suggested was a buy back program for plastic water bottles. Just like the beer store program already in place but for plastic. Hailey tells us that different jurisdictions have a 72-95% success rate in their plastic bottle recycling due to the implementation of a buy back program. In Ontario currently, less than half of plastic bottles are recycled to be reused and the rest end up in landfills and waterways.
All of the alternatives researched by Hailey have the ability to be applied on a local scale. Communities can be doing their part to help keep plastics out of their waterways. It allows for clean drinking water, healthy ecosystem habitat and allows for species to thrive to their full potential.
Hailey explains that:
“Research projects have provided me with adequate field knowledge and have helped me improve my writing skills with reports. I can hopefully use these skills when I get a job after school. This research project in particular was easy to conduct as my love for waste and water quality is huge. Projects like this one bring awareness to huge environmental concerns in which we are dealing with everyday and Trent is a great school for allowing students to personalize their experience and work directly with professors on cultivating a unique experience as well as produce projects like this one, in hopes to bring environmental education to people who might not know.”
Thank you Hailey for fighting to keep our water bodies clean & #green!