Straight from the Tap

Protecting Our Source Water: Actions to Reduce Plastic Waste


Protecting our shared natural resources that we all need to live – clean air, clean water, and healthy native habitats on land – is critical to creating and maintaining a robust economy and a good quality of life.

There's no denying the mounting scientific research that shows how our reliance on single-use plastic items is negatively impacting our water resources. Recent efforts to combat plastic pollution have led to a ban on microbeads from personal care products and national campaigns encouraging people to skip plastic straws, drink from reusable bottles and mugs, and bring reusable bags shopping.

Cleveland Water supports these and other efforts to protect Lake Erie. Keeping plastic waste and other forms of pollution out of our source water makes it easier – and cheaper – for us to deliver consistently clean, safe, and good tasting water to your tap.

Since our water intakes are located far offshore and pull water from deep in the water column, they are less impacted by plastic pollution, which tends to concentrate at the surface. In addition, our water treatment plants are very effective at removing plastic waste and other debris. Our filters can remove 99% of anything that is in the 4- to 8-micron range. In other words, are filters can remove things that are smaller than a red blood cell. Even so, reducing wastes in source water reduces the water treatment costs associated with removing those wastes.

There are many actions that you can take to start reducing you and your family’s reliance on single-use plastic. The best way to get started is to pick one small change and stick to it until it becomes a habit. Set small, attainable goals for yourself and your family. Skip the straw in every glass of water. Leave reusable bags on the front seat of your car so you’ll see them before going into the store. Switch to reusable containers instead of using plastic baggies for lunches.

It’s really, really hard for people to change their habits. This is especially true when the plastic we keep buying, only to throw away after one use, is cheap and readily available with little incentive to replace. But cumulatively, our choices to consciously reduce our use of items that are used once then thrown away can protect and improve the quality of our waterways and other natural resources.

Some actions that you can take to start reducing your reliance on single-use plastic include:

  • Skip the use of straws with your beverages or buy a reusable straw
  • Bring a reusable shopping bag with you. Leave them on the front seat of your car so you remember to bring them into the store. Some stores give you a discount when you bring your own shopping bags. 
  • Carry reusable water bottles and mugs with you. Some coffee shops give you a small discount for bringing your own bottle or mug.
  • Pack your lunch in reusable containers instead of plastic baggies.
  • Avoid snacks/food with excess packaging. Buy in bulk and divide servings into reusable containers.
  • Avoid using plastic cutlery. When ordering take-out, refuse the plastic utensils. Keep a set of silverware at work and/or in your car for eating on the go. 
  • Make sure to recycle according to the rules of your community. Throwing items that can’t be into recycled into the recycling bin can contaminate entire loads of material. (Cleveland Rules) (Cuyahoga County rules).