Blogs > Ecology > Riverkeeper Sweep shows scale of the problem: We need to ban plastic bags in NY

Riverkeeper Sweep shows scale of the problem: We need to ban plastic bags in NY

Plastic bag pollution

As part of Riverkeeper Sweep 2018, we asked people to try to count the single-use plastic bags they were collecting from the shorelines in the Hudson Valley and in New York City – to help demonstrate the need for an effective statewide ban. (Click here to add your support for a ban modeled on California’s law.)

Naturally, volunteers found them everywhere, counting 52 at Corning Preserve in Albany, 20 at Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie, 85 at Concrete Plant Park on the Bronx River, and so on. At two dead-end streets in Brooklyn, at the shoreline of Newtown Creek, volunteers put the number at 750. Sweep leader Lisa Bloodgood of Newtown Creek Alliance explains:

We spent most of our time on the end of Meeker Avenue, and a contingent broke off and walked to the end of Apollo Street, west of Meeker, and cleaned that street end as well. It’s all the more startling because we were in such a relatively small area. We were not covering huge swaths of shoreline and we were not in a park. These places are really not more than a dead end that overlooks the water. They are forgotten places.

It makes sense there would be so many bags concentrated where we decided to hold our Sweep. This is where the wind and water brings everything that you see thrown in the streets or on the sidewalks. These street ends are the last stop on land for trash, plastic, and other debris before it moves into the marine systems. So it’s all concentrated there, making these places perfect for focused attention.

This shouldn’t be the case. We shouldn’t see hundreds of bags collecting on our shorelines. We shouldn’t have to pick up handful after handful of plastic. We know how harmful these products are and we know we should be doing something more to keep these bags out of our communities and out of our environment. We should be banning plastic bags across the state and country, in the same way we did with microbeads a few years back.

We can do much better, and after a day like the Sweep, it is easier than ever to see the impacts of our collective actions, for good – hundreds of people working towards a cleaner environment – or for bad – millions of plastic bags choking our communities because we are too afraid to stop using them.

Learn more and take action:

Help ban the bag: Support the New York Bring Your Own Bag Act

Riverkeeper Sweep 2018 results: 2,200+ volunteers clear 36 tons of trash & 194 tires in a day

Statement on Cuomo’s plastic bag ban bill: A fee on paper is critical

Ulster County considers banning plastic bags (Daily Freeman)

Tell Gov. Hochul to block invasive species at the Erie and Champlain canals
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