We have beautiful beaches here in West Michigan, but they are not exempt from pollution that threatens the environment.
Experts say it's important to stay vigilant about our plastic use because a lot of what's hurting our beaches is smaller than we can see.
"The fact is that there are 22 million pounds of trash that are pulled out of the Great Lakes every year," said Nature Conservation Educator Jessica Gregory.
Gregory explains that is enough trash to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool 100 times.
"A lot of the trash that is picked up comes from beachgoers," she said.
Gregory works with Ottawa County Parks and Recreation to create educational videos on her channel, miEcoBUZZ.
She said that 85% of the pollution that's cleaned up out of the Great Lakes is plastic.
"And plastic really never fully degrades," she said. "It's always going to be there. So even though it might exist in those little tiny pieces, it could be there for hundreds of years."
"The majority of the trash that goes into the Great Lakes also doesn't originate anywhere near the shoreline," Gregory said. "It actually comes from miles and miles inland."
She said that because of the watersheds that all lead to Lake Michigan, if someone here in Grand Rapids drops a plastic straw on the sidewalk, that straw could eventually show up here on our beaches or shorelines.
"So it's really important that people understand it's not just when you go to the beach, it's no matter where you are," Gregory said.
Gregory said studies show that drinking water also contains micro plastics in both tap water and bottled water.
"So even as humans, we end up unknowingly consuming these plastics and the long-term health effects of that is not really fully understood yet," she added.
"So especially in the summer season when we have so many tourists and extra beach visitors, it just becomes really important to think about how we can keep the beaches clean," said Gregory.
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