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The Ocean Plastic Pollution Problem

Plastic waste has been a growing focus of attention from UGA researchers for some time, and their work along several lines of inquiry is drawing important coverage to a serious problem. Marine sciences faculty have also been studying the problem near the Georgia coast and one of them was invited share some of that expertise at a congressional briefing this summer

University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researcher [and professor of marine sciences] Jay Brandes was invited to participate in a congressional briefing titled, “The Ocean Plastic Pollution Problem: Solvable with Science Innovation, and Education.” The briefing was sponsored by the Coalition for Ocean Leadership in conjunction with the House Oceans Caucus and was held in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12. 

Brandes has been studying the presence of microplastics in Georgia’s coastal waters and represented the research community on a three-person panel. He was joined on the panel by John Racanelli, president and CEO of the National Aquarium, and Scott DeFife, vice president of government affairs of the Plastics Industry Association.

Trash in the ocean is a growing problem. House Oceans Caucus Co-Chair, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, said that the equivalent of one garbage truck of trash enters the ocean every minute. Plastic trash in the environment is particularly detrimental due to plastic’s inherent durability and resistance to biological break down. Plastic products may also release potentially dangerous chemicals as they break down. Current estimates project 155 million tons of plastic in the ocean by 2025.

Great work by Brandes to contribute public scholarship to informing citizens and the government. The Georgia coast is a living laboratory in many ways that allows our scientists access to research-gathering and knowledge vital to the health and welfare of people and planet. We will be reporting on more of that research activity throughout this semester and coming academic year.

Image: Bamboo toothbrushes. Try one. The plastic ones last 400 years after you're done with them. #CommitTo a healthy environment

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