Campus News

Professor talks amount of plastic trash in US

UGA College of Engineering professor and National Geographic Fellow Jenna Jambeck. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Jenna Jambeck, a professor in College of Engineering, was recently quoted in an article from Popular Science about limiting plastic waste in the United States.

To handle the amount of plastic trash in the U.S.—about 262 million tons per year—the recycling capacity needs to increase more than tenfold, experts say.

Some experts argue that people should produce less waste.

“Not producing trash in the first place will always be better than having something to recycle,” Jambeck said.

American companies need to prioritize selling objects that last over single-use goods and change the way they’re packaged in order to decrease the pool of would-be recyclables. Many items come in packaging meant for immediate disposal, Jambeck said. That accounts for 40 percent of plastic use. Buyers can pressure producers to do better by seeking out companies that use biodegradable or reusable wrappers.

“Every time we can make a choice to not use single-use plastic, it makes a difference,” she said.