The United States banned the sale and manufacture of plastic microbeads back in December, but the harmful effects of these insidious little particles won’t be disappearing any time soon. A new study by NY/NJ Baykeeper found that the waters around New York are contaminated with at least 165 million plastic particles. Concentrations of plastic were found floating in New York waterways including New York Harbor, the Hudson River, the East River, Upper New York Bay, and Newtown Creek.


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The examination of plastic pollution by NY/NJ Baykeeper, for which the group trawled NY-NJ Harbor Estuary waters between March and August 2015, was the first of its kind in the waters surrounding NYC. The results are not pretty.

Related: NY Proposes Ban on Water-Polluting Microbeads Found in Beauty Products

According to the group’s findings, there are at least 165 million plastic particles (a staggering 256,322 particles per square kilometer) floating in NY area waters. Approximately 85% of the particles were microplastics (smaller than 5mm) and the most abundant type of plastic found was foam (38%). Unsurprisingly, the biggest concentration of polluting plastic particles (556,484 particles per square kilometer) was found in the East River.

The results of the study found that 85% of the particles were smaller than 5 millimeters in diameter. Again this should come as no surprise as tiny plastic microbeads, which will be banned in 2017, accounted for tens of millions of plastic particles found in the waters.

“It just goes to show you big problems need big solutions,” said Sandra Meola, a spokeswoman for Baykeeper.

+ NY/NJ Baykeeper

Via Curbed NY

Lead image via Billion Oyster Project