Plastic Pollution and the River

Litter is a persistent problem in the Chicago River system. The Litter Free Task Force collects data during clean-up events and found the overwhelming majority of litter are plastic and Styrofoam food-related items. Data below collected and displayed by Task Force member University of Loyola Associate Professor Tim Hoellein.

Our policy work at the local, state, and federal levels seeks solutions to eliminating single-use plastic items. This includes serving on the steering committee of the Coalition for Plastic Reduction (CPR).

City of Chicago

Chicago passed a disappointing single-use plastics ordinance that failed to go far enough to curb plastic pollution and eliminate polystyrene used for foam takeout containers and drinking cups.

The Coalition for Plastic Reduction is reaching out to restaurant owners, restaurant associations, and chambers of commerce to support the industry’s effort to reduce single-use plastics. Restaurants leading the charge can join our network of restaurants advocates.

State of Illinois

Polystyrene foam is considered the worst form of plastic pollution. We met with state lawmakers and successfully passed through the Illinois House’s Energy and Environment Committee in 2022. We will also advocate for its passage in the Illinois Senate during the next legislative session.

Federal legislation

The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act would phase out a variety of single-use items.

Any legislation reducing single-use plastics and polystyrene will ultimately reduce pollution carried to our river system during heavy storms. Watch Friends’ policy manager Chelsey Grassfield give a summary of the above legislation in this webinar (34:33).