Plastic pollution exhibit visits western New York in August

HAMBURG – A unique exhibit that tells the story of the harmful effects of plastic pollution in our oceans and the Great Lakes – and the inspiring solutions to the problem – will visit the Lake Erie Seaway Trail Center Friday through Sept. 1.

Hosted by the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the California-based 5 Gyres Institute, Plastic Waters: from the Great Lakes to the Oceans kicks off with a gallery opening and reception on Friday from 7-9 p.m. at the Lake Erie Seaway Trail Center. Special events such as beach cleanups and talks with guest speakers will be held throughout the month. A complete events calendar can be found at the end of this release and on-line at

Combining art and science, Plastic Waters is a unique and sometimes surprising display that tells the story of our plastic-filled waters. The collection consists of artifacts 5 Gyres has gathered from sailing expeditions around the world to research plastic pollution. An ocean-crossing raft made from plastic bottles, a 500-pound mass of tangled fishing nets and line, and a 35-pound mass of plastic bags pulled from the stomach of a camel are among the items travelling with the exhibit. Additionally, the exhibit tells the story of the thousands of volunteers who participate each year in the Alliance’s Adopt-a-BeachTM program to remove trash – much of it plastic – from shorelines around the lakes.

During its regional tour, Plastic Waters highlights the Great Lakes as an example of early progress toward a solution to plastic pollution.

The inspiration for the tour was drawn from a research expedition in 2012 when 5 Gyres partnered with the State University of New York at Fredonia to study plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. The sampling trip discovered high levels of microplastics, including plastic microbeads, in Great Lakes waters. Microbeads are tiny plastic particles used as abrasives in personal- care products such as facial scrubs, soaps and toothpastes.

The findings attracted extensive media attention and led many of the major personal-care product manufacturers to pledge to phase out products containing these harmful microbeads. In June, Illinois became the first state in the nation to phase-out the manufacture and sale of personal-care products containing microbeads, and a number of other states, among them New York, Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota, are considering similar legislation.