Raritan River polluted with microplastics, study finds
A study done by a New Jersey environmental group finds high concentrations of microplastics downstream from wastewater treatments plants in the Raritan River. The samplings were done along a 23-mile stretch of the waterway between Clinton in Hunterdon County and Branchburg in Somerset County.
Science Director Kristi MacDonald of the Raritan Headwaters Association says some of these plastic particles are so tiny they are nearly invisible. Advocates worry the particles are in the drinking water and air.
"Microplastics are very tiny particles of plastic. Some of them have been produced as microplastics, as micro beads and fibers that are in some of our polyester clothing or in our scrubs or facial scrubs. Some of them are actually pieces of plastic bags and larger plastic that has broken down over time because of exposure to UV light or heat or aging," MacDonald said.
Plastics in general are new to the environment, first appearing in the mid-20th century.
"We did not realize that it was going to be such a problem down the line, that plastic can last for thousands of years in the environment," she said. "The issue of microplastics being so ubiquitous in the ocean and in our rivers is just becoming a newly-emerging environmental issue to address."
But now she says, we have to curb their use.
"We need to start thinking more about what we are doing and how we can change our behaviors and choices, so that we are not using as much plastic."
MacDonald says legislation in Trenton to limit plastic bags and straws is a good first step.