Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long. As plastics break down over time into microplastics, they become an environmental and public health issue. Microplastics are so small that they are not picked-up by water filtration and are often eaten by fish, birds, and other aquatic animals, negatively impacting their health.
"Plastic pollution is visible to us everywhere we look on a daily basis," said Larry Baldwin, Crystal Coast Waterkeeper. "Still, little is known about the amount of microplastics, particularly in our waterways, such as the New River."
The two organizations will collect surface water and sediment samples from locations on the New River to better understand the volume of microplastic and macroplastic pollution in North Carolina's streams, rivers, lakes, and bays.
The study is titled "Improving Human and Ecosystem Health through Microplastic Reduction." Samples will be collected bi-monthly for the next two years.
"This study will help us quantify the amounts and learn more about the negative impacts of microplastics and plastics as a whole," Baldwin said.
Project partners UNC-Wilmington, Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, and Plastic Ocean Project will collaborate to get the best scientific data for this project.