We’ve all heard the warnings about cleaning up our trash at the beach and recycling, but it’s easy to feel helpless or that it’s a problem so distant that there’s no point worrying about it. Well, here on Long Island, plastic pollution affects us directly. Not only does it make a mess of our beautiful beaches, but it also threatens wildlife and our vital marine ecosystems.
Long Island acts as an extremely important estuary, meaning that it is a breeding ground for various fish and other marine wildlife. Unfortunately, this also means that how we treat our beaches is of utmost importance, and affects fisheries throughout the world. And, historically, we lead wasteful lifestyles that lead to plastic pollution and threaten our surrounding ecosystems. Every plastic bag we use, every pair of plastic sunglasses, every phone case we quickly discard take thousands of years to break down, and usually ends up in our oceans. Besides ruining the natural beauty of our beaches, plastic pollution can have extremely detrimental effects on wildlife, from small fish and shrimp ingesting deadly microplastics to sea turtles and seals getting caught in plastic fishing nets. The population decreases that plastic pollution causes also have the potential to completely collapse our marine ecosystems, driving away the marine mammals we are just beginning to see on the island for the first time in years.
Although it’s easy to feel helpless in these situations, there are many ways for people and families on Long Island to get involved and prevent plastic pollution from getting into our oceans. First, there are many things you can do in your home, from recycling to reducing your own plastic use and opting for more sustainable alternatives.
On a larger scale, anyone living on Long Island is encouraged to get involved with the New York Marine Rescue Center, a nonprofit rescue and release organization that helps treat the many animals that suffer the consequences of plastic pollution, as well as hosts beach cleanups, whale and seal watching events, and even an annual 5K. The New York Marine Rescue Center is always accepting donations and new volunteers, so we can work together and prevent plastic pollution from destroying our beautiful beaches.
One fine body…