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Leaning into the Plastics Problem

Once considered the key to all manner of convenience, practicality and profit, plastics turn out to be one of most dangerous and long-lasting pollutants to the natural environment. Georgia Magazine takes a look at how UGA faculty researchers are working to approach the problem from many angles, including the development of new materials with industry partners:

Jason Locklin, an associate professor in UGA’s chemistry department, had a related question: Why aren’t we considering what happens to products once they’ve outlived their purpose? Inspired by Jambeck’s 2015 paper in Science, which found that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year, Locklin realized it was time to stop just wringing our hands about the plastic problem. It was time to act.

Locklin and Jambeck, along with Branson Ritchie, a Distinguished Research Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, are leading the charge to bring plastic alternatives that are economically viable and environmentally friendly to the market.

Locklin serves as the director of the New Materials Institute (NMI), which is now entering its second year of operation and consists of three interconnected centers: Circular Materials Management; Polymers, Fibers, and Coatings; and Technology, Development, and Implementation. Jambeck heads Circular Materials Management while Ritchie directs Technology, Development, and Implementation.

The possibility of combining solutions with innovation that addresses problems permanently defines sustainability into progress. That's where so many faculty members on campus are making a difference - teaching, inspiring students, leading partners in the private sector to a better path that helps everyone.

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