Eminent ocean plastics waste expert to deliver Hall Lecture, April 30

MacArthur “genius grant” recipient Jenna Jambeck made the first estimate of plastic trash entering the world’s oceans by linking global data on solid waste, population density and economic status. She and her team calculated that 275 million metric tons (MT) of land-based plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 MT entering the ocean. At the high end, that’s a little over 28,000 pounds. Their report was published in Science.

The nonprofit conservation group Oceana estimates that 33 billion pounds of plastic waste enters the world’s oceans each year. This equates to an entire garbage truck’s worth of plastic entering the ocean every minute.

Jenna Jambeck

Jambeck is a guest speaker in the 2023-2024 John R. and Donna S. Hall Engineering Lecture Series at Vanderbilt University. The lecture—Stories from Sea to Source: Reducing Plastic Pollution—is Tuesday, April 30, at 3:30 p.m. in Averbuch Auditorium (Room 110), Owen Graduate School of Management. A reception will follow. The lecture is open to the public.

Shifting to where the burden of plastics is carried, the community level, Jambeck and her team created the Circularity Assessment Protocol (CAP). CAP is a rigorous, cost-effective toolkit for assessing materials management systems at the community level which has been used in 51 cities in 14 countries.

She will present an intervention framework to reduce plastic ending up in our environment while sharing stories of integrating technology and citizen science, science communication and community-level efforts to address plastic pollution around the globe. The lecture is a live, in-person event. It will not be live streamed or recorded.

Jambeck is the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering at the University of Georgia, a 2022 MacArthur Fellow, founder of the Circularity Informatics Lab in the New Materials Institute and a 2018-2021 National Geographic Explorer. She has been conducting research on solid waste issues and marine debris/plastic pollution for two decades. Her work has been recognized by the global community and translated into policy discussions by the High-Level Panel for the Ocean, testimony to Congress, in G7 and G20 Declarations, and the United Nations Environment program.

Established in 2002, the John R. and Donna S. Hall Engineering Lecture Series allows Vanderbilt engineering students to hear renowned engineers from universities and agencies address engineering topics of particular interest.