Circular Great Lakes: Forging a Future Without Waste

The Council of the Great Lakes Region has recently launched Circular Great Lakes as a regional initiative focused on managing post-consumer materials more sustainably, starting with plastic waste. Circular Great Lakes will work with the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, member companies and key stakeholders throughout the region to develop a circular economy strategy for plastics and set the stage for targeted actions and partnerships over the next five years.

The Great Lakes are a natural wonder as the largest concentration of fresh water on the planet. With that kind of prestige, no one wants to kick away plastic bottles while enjoying long walks on Sandbanks Beach or paddle away plastic wrappers when kayaking on Lake Huron. Post-consumer plastics still enter the Great Lakes from the United States and Canada every year, but the solution isn’t hauling that plastic waste away to a landfill. Instead, the Council of the Great Lakes Region views that post-consumer plastic as a material that can be incorporated into a larger circular economy strategy that ensures plastic never becomes waste.

Photography and editing by Michael Courier, with music by Sergey Cheremisinov.

The Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR) has recently launched Circular Great Lakes as a regional initiative focused on driving systemic change necessary to close the loop for plastics and shift away from a take-make-dispose materials mindset.

Circular Great Lakes recognizes the region is home to 85 million people as well as deeply integrated sectors and supply chains that propel commerce and economic activity. To further unite key stakeholders, through a memorandum of understanding with CGLR, Circular Great Lakes is partnering with the Alliance, a non-profit organization working with policy makers, non-governmental organizations and communities globally, to address the challenge of ending plastic waste in the environment. This year, Circular Great Lakes also retained RRS, a recycling and sustainability consulting firm, to perform an independent gap analysis of the following areas: collection, processing, end markets, education & engagement, supporting policies and public-private funding.

Source: RRS

Circular Great Lakes and the Alliance are aligned on key priorities:

1) Innovation: Transform recovery pathways and end markets for a wider array of plastic packaging, utilizing advanced infrastructure and technology.

2) Investment: Leverage investments from business, government, and others to pilot and scale circular economy solutions throughout the region.

3) Collective Action: Develop a five-year strategy and action plan for regional implementation through a collaborative approach based on the 6 key areas outlined above.

Industry leaders such as American Packaging Corporation, Charter Next Generation, Dow, Imperial, Pregis Corporation and Rothmans Benson & Hedges are corporate partners that have already committed to funding the initiative. More than 20 knowledge partners from government, academia and the non-profit sectors—like Pollution Probe, Closed Loop Partners, and the Government of Ontario—are supporting the initiative and are uniting to actively combat plastic waste and pollution in the Great Lakes. By using the findings from the ongoing gap analysis, Circular Great Lakes is shaping itself to be the catalyst for identifying transformational projects and mobilizing investments to preserve a vital resource in exchange for a zero plastic waste future for the Great Lakes.