University of Georgia

‘Stat of the Year’

UGA professor Jenna Jambeck

A UGA research finding was named the 2018 International Statistic of the Year by the Royal Statistical Society. More than 90 percent of plastic worldwide has never been recycled, according to Jenna Jambeck, who worked with colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the Sea Education Association on the groundbreaking research.

“This statistic illustrates that many of the characteristics of plastic that make it so useful—it’s lightweight and can be any color and shape with additives—also can reduce its value at its end of life and make it difficult to manage in the waste stream,” says Jambeck, associate professor in the College of Engineering. “It often ends up unrecycled or mismanaged and ends up in our ocean.”

In January 2019, Jambeck was tapped by the National Geographic Society to serve as scientific co-lead for its “Source to Sea” plastics initiative, which will investigate how plastic moves through watersheds in hopes of finding solutions to keep it from ever reaching the world’s oceans.

This brief appeared in the spring 2019 issue of  Research Magazine. The original story is available at