The city’s love affair with plastic food containers, forks and knives wrapped in to-go plastic bags is suffocating our waterways according to a study released this week.
There are at least 165 million plastic particles floating in New York Harbor at any given time, according to the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary Plastic Collection report released Tuesday by the NY/NJ Baykeeper, an environmental group based in Keyport, N.J. In fact, New York accumulates twice as much plastic in its surrounding waters than New Jersey.
“We can’t keep using throwaway products that are used for a few minutes. Plastic never goes away. It takes decades to break down,” said Sandra Meola a spokeswoman for the group.
Environmental teams canvassed the waters surrounding the city including New York Harbor, the Hudson River, the East River, the Upper New York Bay and Newtown Creek. This is the first time environmentalists have used nets to trawl and collect millions of plastic particles as small as grains of sand to shards of floating plastic in the waterways of New York and New Jersey, said Meola.
Approximately 85% of particles collected were microplastics, or particles that can be eaten by wildlife. “They are like poison pills’’ that can carry toxics and carcinogens, said Dave Conover, an education director at the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, an environmental group that collected plastics from the Hudson River.
Another plastic evil are mircobeads, which will be banned in July 2017 but are used as abrasives in toothpaste and skin cleansing scrubs. The beads seep into the waterways after going through sewage treatment systems.
A city ban on Styrofoam was rejected by a judge last year, said Meola. The group will renew its efforts to push for a statewide and than a nation ban.
“With a population of more than eight million, New York City must take aggressive policy action like phasing out foam and plastic bags,” said Meola.