Council of the Great Lakes Region Releases Bi-National Circular Great Lakes Strategy and Action Plan for Plastic Packaging Waste and Litter


JUNE 28TH, 2022

CHICAGO, IL / June 28, 2022 – Today, the Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR), as part of its Circular Great Lakes initiative, released an innovative five-year circular economy strategy and action plan for plastics. The organization worked in collaboration with a number of corporate stakeholders in the plastics value chain as well as government, academic, and NGO partners to develop the plan. The aim is to forge a future without plastic packaging waste and litter in the bi-national Great Lakes region, the engine of the North American economy and guardian of the largest freshwater system in the world.

“Plastic is a versatile material that is used widely in our industries and homes as consumers, but it should never become waste in our economy or litter in our environment,” said Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the Council of the Great Lakes Region. “Through the Circular Great Lakes initiative, we are convening business, government, academic, and NGO leaders to drive and deliver the systems change needed to close the loop and accelerate the transition to a circular economy for plastics in this critical region to the United States and Canada.”

Over 80%, or 12.8 million tons, of recyclable plastic packaging materials are being landfilled every year, effectively throwing out $1.7 billion (~CA$2.1 billion) worth of reusable plastics. Even worse, plastic material is polluting the Great Lakes and our regional environment in the form of litter.

Operating in tandem with other zero plastic waste measures, a modern and effective recycling system is a key component of closing the loop and eliminating plastic marine debris. Yet, too many Great Lakes households still do not have access to recycling options. Additionally, regional recycling rules differ, with policies in many places still favoring a throw-away economy and recycling system infrastructure is aging and lacks investments in advanced materials management practices.

To tackle these issues facing the region, the Circular Great Lakes strategy and action plan centers around three key priorities as the initiative moves from vision to action:

  • Priority One: Clean up and end plastic waste and litter from entering the Great Lakes watershed, earth’s largest freshwater system.
  • Priority Two: Accelerate development of plastic packaging recycling supply chains and markets, with a focus on flexible plastics.
  • Priority Three: Achieve a step change in plastics recycling quantity and quality through policy, consumer behavior, and investments in infrastructure and advanced technologies.

Partnerships in the Circular Great Lakes initiative continue to grow and currently include eight corporate partners (Charter Next Generation, Dow Inc., Imperial, Pregis, Meijer, American Packaging Corporation, Dart, and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.) and 30 academic, non-profit, and government knowledge partners such as the NOAA Marine Debris Program. All stakeholders are invited to contact CGLR for more information on how to get involved.

Partner Quotes

“American Packaging Corporation seeks to make a difference in the communities where we live and work. The efforts and ambitions of the CGLR align with our values to make a contribution toward remedying plastics waste, enhancing the supply demand for recycled materials, improving the end-of-life infrastructure, and promoting education to better understand the value of flexible packaging and its role in the packaging value stream.“

– Jeff Travis, Manager Innovation & Sustainability, American Packaging Corporation

“Charter Next Generation is one of North America’s leading independent producers of high-performance specialty film and flexible packaging solutions.  We are committed to a sustainability-first approach that protects families, strengthens the global community, and facilitates a greener future for generations to come. As a proud charter member of the Circular Great Lakes initiative run by CGLR, CNG will continue to be active in cleaning and protecting the waters of our hometown lakes.”

– Scott Hammer, Director of Corporate Sustainability, Charter Next Generation

“While Dart products give people the freedom to enjoy their food and drinks on the go, they don’t belong in our waterways or as litter. We’re pleased to play an active role with the Council as part of our greater sustainability program to help reduce environmental impacts to the Great Lakes, which have special importance for us as Michigan has been our corporate home since we began more than 60 years ago. Dart’s investments in recycling programs, stormwater management grants and our elite designation from the Operation Clean Sweep Blue initiative will help the Council achieve its action plan to protect these vital freshwater resources.”

– Libby Rice, Corporate Sustainability Team, Dart Container

“Pregis is proud to be a founding member of the Circular Great Lakes initiative. By partnering with other like-minded organizations across the value chain, we can accelerate the path to a future with zero plastic waste. The priorities outlined in the CGLR action plan are designed to drive positive change in systems and behaviors, develop new recycling solutions for greater impact, and create a sustainable circular economy. Sustainability is core to our mission at Pregis. As a company with a heavy presence across the Great Lakes region, we’re passionate about this initiative, which closely aligns with our goals to protect our planet, preserve our natural resources and inspire people through education.”

– Laurin Darnell, President, Pregis Protective Products 

Download and read the Great Lakes Circular Economy Strategy and Action Plan For Plastics HERE. 

About the Council of the Great Lakes Region

CGLR is a network of organizations comprised of CGLR Foundation, CGLR USA, and CGLR Canada. It is dedicated to creating stronger, more dynamic regional collaborations through dialogue, policy research and programs, and advocacy in order to find new ways of harnessing the bi-national Great Lakes region’s economic strengths and assets, improving the well-being and livelihoods of the region’s citizens, and protecting the environment and the Great Lakes for future generations. Learn more at


Mark Fisher

President and CEO


Lora Shrake

Senior Program Director, Business and Sustainability

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