UGA professor tackles plastic waste in academic book and user-friendly blog

By David Pendered

A UGA professor known internationally for her work on plastics in waterways approaches the problem in a way that helps everyday people understand the dangers presented by plastic waste.

In the scientific community, Jenna Jambeck, a professor at the University of Georgia, is considered for her work on plastic litter and marine debris, as well as an app she co-created to allow citizen scientists to add discoveries about plastic debris in their communities. .

A new report that Jambeck helped write reflects this serious side to his work. Jambeck served on the committee that oversaw the production of the forthcoming publication by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine. “Reckoning with the US Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste” is due out this spring and is now available in a pre-release version.

Among the recommendations that make up an entire chapter are calls for a reduction in the production and use of plastics. Congress has been considering such a move since March. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) is the only Georgia lawmaker to co-sponsor the proposal, the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act. Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate

Oceana is among the conservation organizations that have an office in Georgia and have endorsed the recommendations in the “Reckoning” book.

“We can no longer ignore America’s role in the plastic pollution crisis, one of the greatest environmental threats facing our oceans and our planet today,” said campaign director Christy Leavitt. plastic from Oceana, in a press release. “This report shows that much of the plastic waste that threatens critical ecosystems, wildlife, and human health around the world originates here in the United States, and our nation’s leaders have a responsibility to change that. “

Meanwhile, Jambeck is adopting a more approachable tone in her blog. The most recent entries take readers to a canal in Louisiana:

“Thursday started with a ball of trash from the Carlotta Street boom in Baton Rouge… Just looking at it we saw lots of foam cups, bottles and a few random footballs and soccer balls. The waste from the trap was to be sorted by very dedicated LSU students a few days later.

And so, with a quick sketch in an April 19 entry, Jambeck tells a story familiar to many as she invites readers to join her and her family on a journey along the main stem of the Mississippi. , from Louisiana to Minnesota.

Baton Rouge was the starting point for the Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative, which plans to involve thousands of citizen scientists gathering information about plastic pollution along one of the world’s great waterways, the Mississippi River.

The initiative is also mentioned in the next publication. The project appears in the section that describes plastics tracking, which the report says must take place if the oceans are to be cleared of plastic debris.

The authors determine that a lack of information on the pathways of plastic, from its origin to its elimination, is a barrier to be overcome.

“This report illustrates the limited, or absent, data from which to inform and implement effective plastic intervention actions…”, it reads. “There is no nation-wide monitoring system, or ‘system of systems’, to provide a baseline to track sources, pathways and sinks important to the current scale of public concern. or government.”

Two approaches exist to gather the necessary information, according to the book. One involves government-sponsored studies, such as NOAA’s Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project. The other involves citizen scientists, like the debris tracking made possible by the Jambeck app designed with Kyle Johnsen, a computer engineering professor at UGA who directs the Georgia Informatics Institutes.

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