Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘plastic pollution’

Survey of Beach Litter Finds Many Threats to Nesting Birds

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

by Mary Emich

Plover chick next to a seabeach amaranth plant. Photo by Alice Brennan.

Despite hundreds of trash bins conveniently located on the beach, litter is still found in the sand every day. Many people enjoy their summer days at a key beach nesting bird site in Sea Girt. Beach goers leave behind trash that litters the crucial environment. These include plastic bottles, bags, cans, wrappers, straws, fishing line, etc. Plastic pollution effects the surrounding environment and wildlife that inhabits it.

At the Sea Girt beach, piping plovers (Charadrius melodus), an endangered beach nesting bird species, travels hundreds of miles to breed and nest during the summertime. This species is directly affected by the amount of litter that pollutes the beach. Every year shore birds, and many other species, ingest plastic or get entangled in fishing line which lessens their chance of survival.

Seabeach Amaranth. Photo by Meghan Kolk.

Another significant endangered species located at Sea Girt beach is seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus). This annual plant needs a healthy ecosystem free of debris to thrive every season. It is important to maintain a strong coastal habit for reproduction and population growth.

Twenty weeks of litter was collected at the Sea Girt beach with approximately 200 plastic straws, 50 plastic bags, 75 bottles, and 25 pieces of fishing line. Pollution on the beach can be prevented if patrons are mindful of properly disposing their trash at the end of their trip.

20 weeks worth of beach trash recovered from the Sea Girt beach.

Mary Emich is an assistant biologist with Conserve Wildlife Foundation.


Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

by Milena Bimpong

This story marks Part 4 of CWF’s series about COVID-19’s impacts on nature in New Jersey and beyond. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 can be found here, and Part 3 can be found here. CWF Executive Director David Wheeler discussed COVID-19 and wildlife on our podcast, State of Change, which can be found here.

Less Air Pollution & More Plastic Pollution

A discarded mask drifts in the tide. Mark Makela/Getty Images

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected human lives in many different ways. However, the pandemic has been impacting our environment and nature as well. For example, air pollution decreased when people started staying inside due to lockdown restrictions, which is beneficial towards wildlife. However, there have been negative impacts as well. The amount of debris in marine ecosystems has increased due to improper disposal of face masks. What will the future for wildlife species in New Jersey look like amid the pandemic?

One temporary positive impact that the pandemic has had on the environment is reduced carbon dioxide emissions. According to a study published in Nature Climate Change, global carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by 17% from 2019 to early April 2020. Although this won’t last once we return to pre-pandemic conditions, reduced carbon dioxide emissions is great for wildlife. Since too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has amplified the effects of climate change, this has threatened the habitats of many wildlife species. If reduced carbon dioxide emissions were to occur long-term, it would be able to have a larger impact on wildlife habitats. 


WHYY: Raptor expert rescues baby osprey in Island Beach State Park

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

by Justin Auciello, WHYY

A baby osprey on the right is completely covered by the plastic bag. Photo by Ben Wurst, Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

A raptor expert successfully rescued an osprey hatchling on Tuesday morning in Island Beach State Park.


How Plastic Pollution Impacts Wildlife – And What You Can Do!

Friday, August 19th, 2016

by Corrine Henn, Communication Coordinator

For those of us who call New Jersey home, we’ve all likely witnessed the impact human activities have on our environment and the species who thrive here. Although habitat loss, illegal poaching and invasive species can be equally devastating to an ecosystem, the presence of plastic pollution around our state is a threat that almost every individual can be found personally culpable.

A jellyfish & a plastic cup cover - which is which? It's easy to see how a sea turtle could get confused and accidentally swallow plastic. Photo by Mike Davenport.

A jellyfish & a plastic cup cover – which is which? It’s easy to see how a sea turtle could get confused and accidentally swallow plastic. Photo by Mike Davenport.

Although many forms of pollution impact our native species, the summer months at the Jersey Shore often result in a surge of plastic debris that are left behind or improperly disposed of. Plastic pollution impacts millions of wildlife species globally, and the diverse number of species in New Jersey are no exception.

The plastic pollution that accumulates in our waterways and elsewhere around New Jersey poses a serious threat to native species. Single-use plastic products like plastic bags, bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, straws, and even balloons are not only unsustainable, but particularly dangerous for the animals that may become entangled in them or accidentally ingest them.

Ospreys use trash as nesting material because (sadly) it is a plentiful resource that collects in the upper areas of the saltmarsh. It is a deadly component of their nests that easily entangles them. Do your part and pick up litter if you see it. © Ben Wurst

Ospreys use trash as nesting material because (sadly) it is a plentiful resource that collects in the upper areas of the saltmarsh. It is a deadly component of their nests that easily entangles them. Do your part and pick up litter if you see it. © Ben Wurst

A few years ago, CWF’s Habitat Program Manager Ben Wurst and his dedicated group of volunteers who monitor the osprey nests along the coast began to hold onto the trash and debris collected in and around the nests. While it may not be the most visually appealing educational resource, it made the growing problem of plastic pollution personal for Ben, in a way that words aren’t always able to convey.

Plastic bags, one of the most common single-use plastic products, were overwhelmingly prevalent in many of the nests. And osprey aren’t the only wildlife species facing this threat. Seals, terrapins, shorebirds, fish, whales, sharks and dolphins can also be impacted by plastic debris.

The presence of plastic in our daily lives is interminable and difficult to eliminate completely, but there are a number of things we can do to minimize the impact our habits may have on our wildlife!

Clean up after yourself:
Whether you’re spending the day at the beach, having a picnic by a lake, or tubing down a river, make sure you take any trash with you before leaving and recycle what you can.

Be mindful of your surroundings:
If you’re out and about and notice that someone left some trash behind, take a moment to throw it away.

Reduce your consumption:
A number of small changes from millions of people can make a big difference. For starters, invest in reusable shopping bags and water bottles. And cut down on the number of miscellaneous throw away plastics you use, including straws and plastic wrappers.

Consider donating to CWF to support our conservation projects and ensure our biologists and our volunteers are able to continue surveying and aiding species in need.



Removing Harmful Microplastics from New Jersey’s Waterways and Wildlife

Thursday, January 28th, 2016
Nation Follows New Jersey’s Lead in Banning Microbeads

by Jake Levine, Intern


Have you ever used a skin-care product with those “exfoliating” beads? Have you ever used toothpaste that guarantees a brighter smile with its “abrasive” powers? The small plastic microbeads found in those products — and many other cosmetics — are polluting waterways and affecting wildlife. These small plastic microbeads are all less than five millimeters in size. Although they are tiny, they can have some colossal impacts on the waterways and the wildlife that inhabit these ecosystems.


What makes these microbeads so detrimental to the waterways and wildlife is its chemical composition. Commonly called plastic, polymers have been one of the most revolutionary creations in industry. They are strong, lightweight, and last a lifetime… literally. A key characteristic of polymers is long decomposition rate. Instead of naturally breaking down, they photo-degenerate, which means they absorb sunlight to break apart. When found in waterways, the rate that they break down is much longer, since the surrounding water keeps the microbeads cool and can redirect the sunlight. In animals that depend on waterways for food, these microbeads put up a fight against their digestive systems. These polymers do not break down in their digestive systems, which can pose a serious health risk to wildlife.


In a standard food chain, the smaller organisms make up the foundation. This foundation provides the energy and nutrients needed to fuel the rest of the food chain. With the introduction of microbeads into waterways, the foundation of the food chain now also contains microbeads. Since microbeads are made of polymers, they offer no nutritional value to any of the organisms that consume them. In addition to not being able to decompose or break down in wildlife, these small pellets can quickly cumulate inside animals, leading to fatal health issues.


So what is being done about the microbead issue? In 2015, legislators passed a bill that will prohibit the selling and distributing of these products that contain microbeads, and you can thank New Jersey for leading the charge! The “Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015” will ban the manufacturing, introduction, or delivery for introduction into our commerce of products that contain intentionally-added microbeads. The ban on the manufacturing will begin on July 1, 2017, while the ban on commerce will begin July 1, 2018.


The ban is one step, but I am anticipating it to lead to something bigger towards the recovery of the waterways and the environment.


Learn More:


Jake Levin is an intern for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.