Co-authored by Erica Cirino
Whenever I visit my favorite beaches on Long Island’s North Shore, I look for sea glass. There’s just something about these wave-worn gems—blues, greens, browns, whites and one or two bits of rare yellow glass—that invites me to pick them up.
Lately though, I’ve been duped by small pieces of plastic masquerading as glass. (It’s amazing how closely shards of tumbled polypropylene and polyethylene can resemble sea glass.) In fact, I’ve been plucking up so many pieces of plastic lately that I began to wonder just how much of the stuff New York’s waters contain.
It turns out, there’s quite a bit of it: Researchers from Rutgers University, Monmouth University’s Urban Coast Institute, 5 Gyres, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and the State University of New York at Fredonia, working with scientists and techs from NY-NJ Baykeeper—an environmental organization based in Keyport, N.J.—estimate there are more than 165 million plastic pieces in the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary, a region where fresh river water meets seawater close to shore.