New exhibit aims to keep plastic out of Lake Superior

Posted on Dec 1, 2016

Exhibit encourages viewers to take an active role in preventing trash from reaching Lake Superior

An exhibit now on display in the City of Superior Government Center atrium encourages viewers to take an active role in preventing trash from reaching Lake Superior.

The exhibit “Plastic in Lake Superior. That’s Garbage.” features all the plastic collected by University of Wisconsin-Superior professor Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza and a group of students on Wisconsin Point in only one day in September 2015. Designed by staff at the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, the mobile exhibit has been touring the region, collecting pledges to prevent trash in the Great Lakes.

“Plastic trash in Lake Superior is a growing problem, but it’s almost 100 percent preventable if we can get everyone on board.” said Deanna Erickson, Education Coordinator at the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve. “Individual actions really are what will make a difference for our drinking water and wildlife.”  

Simple ways citizens can protect water quality include using less plastic whenever possible, carrying reusable items like bags or utensils, or picking up trash to prevent it from being washed down storm drains to the lake.

Studies in recent years have found less plastic in Lake Superior compared to the other Great Lakes, but it is a problem that may become worse.  An investigation of the content of fish stomachs conducted by Dr. Rios Mendoza at UW-Superior showed that 18 percent of the fish had small plastic pieces or fibers in their stomachs. Tiny microbeads, used as a scrubbing agent in beauty products, have also been found by sampling water in the lake.  

Trash clean-ups conducted at Wisconsin Point by the Alliance for the Great Lakes in September showed that cigarette filters, foam food containers, food wrappers, beverage cans and straws, as well as small broken plastic pieces, were the most common trash found in our area. Nationwide, 80 percent of trash cleaned from beaches is plastic.

Plastic poses challenges because toxic pollutants like heavy metals can stick to the surface of plastic pieces, making it harder to ensure safe drinking water. Plastic can be eaten by fish and other animals and can cause entanglement. Plastic on beaches may also have a negative impact on tourism. The number one factor that people consider when deciding to visit a beach is its cleanliness.

The exhibit has already visited the Superior Library, UW-Superior and the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. Following its time in the City Center, the display will be at University of Minnesota Duluth beginning in mid-January. The City of Superior is sponsoring a talk about the issue by Dr. Rios Mendoza on February 16 at 6 p.m. at the Superior Public Library.

News Contact: Deanna Erickson | deanna.erickson@ces.uwex.edu | 715-919-2154

New exhibit aims to keep plastic out of Lake Superior
Posted on Dec 1, 2016
The exhibit “Plastic in Lake Superior. That’s Garbage.” features all the plastic collected by University of Wisconsin-Superior professor Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza and a group of students on Wisconsin Point in only one day in September 2015. The exhibit is now on display in the City of Superior Government Center atrium. The exhibit encourages viewers to take an active role in preventing trash from reaching Lake Superior.

The exhibit “Plastic in Lake Superior. That’s Garbage.” features all the plastic collected by University of Wisconsin-Superior professor Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza and a group of students on Wisconsin Point in only one day in September 2015. The exhibit is now on display in the City of Superior Government Center atrium. The exhibit encourages viewers to take an active role in preventing trash from reaching Lake Superior.