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NY/NJ Baykeeper has released the results from a plastic collection study detailing the sizes, types and concentrations of plastic pollution within New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary waters. The Harbor Estuary encompasses the Ports of New York and New Jersey, as far north as the Tappan Zee Bridge and as far south as Sandy Hook Bay. NY/NJ Baykeeper’s results represent one of the first examinations of plastic pollution within waters surrounding New York City.

Based on NY/NJ Baykeeper’s estimates, at least 165 million plastic particles are floating within New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary waters at any given time. The average abundance of plastic particles is 256,322 per square kilometer.

Eighteen samples were collected from New York City and New Jersey waters including the East River, the Upper New York Bay, Newtown Creek, the Lower Harbor near Perth Amboy, New Jersey, the Passaic River, the Morris Canal, the Arthur Kill, the Lower Newark Bay and the Upper Newark Bay. Based on results from the sites sampled, the average plastic quantity per square kilometer from New York City samples was approximately twice the average of New Jersey samples.

“With a population of more than 8 million, New York City must take aggressive policy action like phasing out foam and plastic bags to reduce damage caused by plastic pollution,” Sandra Meola, communications and outreach associate at NY/NJ Baykeeper, said. “Coupled with consumer education, legislation should be a priority, especially in the ‘to-go’ city. We can’t keep using throwaway products that are used for a few minutes but take decades to break down.”

NY/NJ Baykeeper Plastic Reduction team trawling within New York Harbor.
NY/NJ Baykeeper Plastic Reduction team trawling within New York Harbor.

Samples were collected using a net called a manta trawl, which is designed to collect floatable debris off the water’s surface. The net is of the same specifications used by the 5 Gyres Institute for international ocean research and for the survey completed in the Great Lakes region by Dr. Sherri Mason.

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