Plastic Waste and Microplastics on City Island Living Shoreline

As the name suggests, microplastics are small pieces of plastic measuring less than five millimeters (Galoustian, 2022). These tiny particles may have broken off from larger pieces of plastic, or they may intentionally have been made small, such as microbeads in cosmetic products (9 in 10 Cosmetics Contain Microplastics, 2022). These microplastics pose a grave threat to the environment and animals (including humans) within the environment. Just on the surface waters of oceans in the world, there are about 51 trillion pieces of microplastics (Galoustian, 2022). Because we often see plastics on our living shoreline, this summer, we, at City Island Oyster Reef (CIOR), continued our research on microplastics and their effects on the environment.

Plastics and Microplastics on Shoreline

Although CIOR does not collect data on plastics along our shoreline, we recognize that everyone can have an impact on plastic waste. We have joined organizations with similar concerns, such as the Galveston Bay Foundation[1] and the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project,[2] in addressing microplastics and their dangers.  We recognize that by using fewer plastic products, everyone can help eradicate harmful plastic waste in our waters. Accordingly, we seek to raise awareness about the issue.

CIOR found a willing ally in City Island’s local public school, P.S. 175. We spent the summer working to create a microplastic curriculum for middle-school science students. This curriculum will focus on the dangers of microplastics to our environment and on raising awareness to create advocates for positive change in our communities. P.S. 175 has adopted the curriculum, and this school year, seventh-graders will learn about microplastics and their effect on the environment. We hope this curriculum will spread to other schools in The Bronx, throughout the State of New York, and beyond. We hope that, as awareness is raised, solutions can be found and achieved.

Joey Crain, CIOR Intern


[1] See www.galvbay.org.

[2] See https://flseagrant.ifas.ufl.edu/microplastics/.

Galoustian, G. (2022, February 2). FAU | FAU Scientists Uncover ‘Missing’ Plastics Deep in the Ocean. Florida Atlantic University. Retrieved September 18, 2023, from http://www.fau.edu/newsdesk/articles/missing-microplastics-ocean.php.

9 in 10 Cosmetics Contain Microplastics (2022, April 6). Plastic Soup Foundation. Retrieved September 18, 2023, from https://www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/en/2022/04/almost-9-in-10-products-from-major-cosmetics-brands-contain-microplastics/ (9 in 10 Cosmetics Contain Microplastics, 2022).

Spat Collectors

City Island Oyster Reef (CIOR) works actively to restore oyster reefs and to improve the environment around City Island while also engaging the community. Over the past four years our efforts have developed many new ways to further our goal. This year one of our goals was to deploy 18 spat collectors around City Island in order to attract baby oysters.

Spat collectors are disks made of cement, oyster shells, and rubber tubes. The cement and the shells act as surfaces to which oyster spat, or larvae, can attach themselves and grow to maturity. The tube through the middle of the collector enables a rope to suspend it in the water from a dock or a boat mooring. Our spat collectors were lowered a couple of feet below the surface to make sure that no local predators would harm the developing oysters at low tide.

Attaching a spat collector to a rope

The City Island community was very much involved in the process of creating and deploying the spat collectors. First, the construction of the collectors was completed at the local public school, P.S. 175, which enabled young Islanders to assist and learn more about the effort. Then, for help with deployment, a message was sent out to a volunteer group, and two volunteers came out to help. We placed the spat collectors near the dock where the City Island Yacht Club junior sailing program takes place during the summer, thus promoting greater awareness and community involvement.

by Connor Normoyle, CIOR Intern