How Does Plastic Pollution Harm Water?

May 16th, 2019

Every drop of water that will ever exist on our planet is already here so our actions have an impact. Plastic – which takes decades or even hundreds of years to decompose – poses a threat to our water supplies and water quality in a variety of ways.

Plastic pollution from discarded water bottles, polystyrene coffee cups, grocery bags, synthetic clothing fiber, and other waste breaks down into tiny bits of plastic no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.

Banning single-use plastic bags with local ordinances or a state law is pivotal to improving the health of our waterways. Creating new habits, where people bring reusable bags to stores, is essential to stop the estimated 4.5 billion plastic bags given out each year in New Jersey.

Microplastics have been detected in water around the world, including our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. In these waterways, the microplastics end up in the water we drink and the fish we eat, including shellfish.

Since last summer when Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed a statewide ban on plastic bags in favor of waiting for stronger legislation, more than 50 New Jersey municipalities have passed local regulations to cut the use of single-use plastic bags and other plastic waste such as straws, balloons and Styrofoam containers.

If legislation is passed and signed into state law, then the current patchwork of ordinances in New Jersey would become uniform. New Jersey would then follow New York, California, and Hawaii by banning single-use plastic.

Wildlife is harmed when plastic is tangled in a limb, neck or other body parts. Wildlife often mistakes plastic for food.  Once the plastic is eaten, it cannot be digested and ends up harming the animal by lodging in the gut. Plastic bags also can suffocate animals.

Plastics also leech into the water, degrading the water quality with toxic compounds and end up harming human and animal health.

Discarded plastic bags from our throw-away society end up blocking storm drains and culverts, impeding the flow of water and worsening bank erosion.

The best solution is to avoid plastic by bringing reusable bags to grocery stores, switch from disposable to reusable drinking bottles, use a ceramic coffee mug, bring a reusable container to the deli, and reduce your consumption of single-use plastic bags, straws, cups and other items.

Once you’re done with a plastic product, recycle them correctly. Here is a guide: https://www.greatswamp.org/blog/recycling-tips/

There is plenty of information available on this topic. Please join us by not purchasing single-use plastic and changing habits to benefit our waterways and water quality.

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