What started out as a great idea for cheap, lightweight, disposable food ware in the 1950s, has become a ubiquitous plague on our environment and deadly threat to wildlife. Plastic enters our waterways through littering, improper waste management, and via stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows. Plastic will never biodegrade once it reaches the water. Instead, the sun’s light and water act as shredders, breaking the material into tiny microplastic particles, smaller than a grain of rice. This process is called photo degradation.
Plastics also absorb harmful contaminants already present in the water, like DDT. Fish and birds can get entangled in plastic or mistake it for food, threatening the human food chain.
To prevent plastic pollution from entering our waterways, we must stop it at its source. Due in part from Baykeeper’s research and advocacy, Governor Murphy signed the strongest and comprehensive plastics reduction law in the country in November 2020. Here’s what you need to know:
- Single-use plastic carryout bags are banned in all stores throughout the state
- Paper carryout out bags are banned in grocery stores larger than 2,500 square feet
- Polystyrene foam (think Styrofoam) food service ware is banned
- Straws are only available upon request at food service establishments
- In 2016, NY/NJ Baykeeper completed its NY-NJ Harbor Estuary Plastic Collection Report. This report is the first examination of plastic pollution within waters surrounding New York City. Of our more than 75 water samples, 100% contained plastic. We estimate that at least 165 million plastic pieces are floating in the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary.
- Microplastics in urban New Jersey freshwaters: distribution, chemical identification, and biological affects, AIMS Environmental Science, 2017
- Microplastics Research Overview, NY/NJ Region, 2016
- Microplastics in the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary, Clear Waters 2016