ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - At Lido Beach, Caleb Miller and his family enjoy a picture-perfect day, but inches away, you can spot something that shouldn't be there: Plastic.
"It's on the side of the road. You see it really anywhere people are," said Miller. "I often think about [my daughter's] generation and how often they are going to have to deal with waste and plastics."
Sometimes it's there, even when you can't see it. Tiny particles called microplastics are barely visible to the eye. But under the microscope, they really stand out.
"Some of them are in cosmetics, some of them are in toothpaste and shampoo, some of them come from the clothes we are wearing," said Dr. David Hastings.
Dr. Hastings is a marine science professor at Eckerd College and has studied microplastics in the waters off Tampa Bay for the last seven years.
He estimates there are between 1 and 4 pieces of microplastic per gallon of water. That adds up to billions just in the Bay Area.
Florida State University researchers also found microplastics in the sand at every turtle nesting site they tested along the Gulf Coast.
"These plastics hold heat more. They absorb and retain heat more easily than regular sand. If there are more plastics in the sand, the sand might be warmer," said Hastings.
Warmer sand can affect the turtles' incubation temperatures. Scientists said that could change the sex of turtle hatchlings.
"We are concerned if the temperature of the sand changes then the ratio of the males to females will change," said Hastings.
After several years of record turtle seasons, scientists are concerned that - much like the plastics - it could all go to waste.
"This is definitely a wake-up call," added Hastings.