Jenna Jambeck is internationally recognized for her work to reduce plastic waste, and her research has spurred governments, industry and nonprofit organizations to protect ocean wildlife and ecosystem health by reducing plastic waste generation and expanding waste management infrastructure.
A member of the University of Georgia faculty since 2009, Jambeck conducts research and teaches environmental engineering with a focus on solid waste management and marine debris. As associate director of UGA’s New Materials Institute and director of the Center for Circular Materials Management, Jambeck is shifting the paradigm of waste management to proactive materials management. This means thinking about how to create less waste and managing materials before any “waste” is produced.
Along with fellow College of Engineering faculty member Kyle Johnsen, she is co-creator of the Marine Debris Tracker mobile app, now powered by Morgan Stanley. The open-data citizen-science tool allows users to track plastic and other pollution using their smartphones. To date, Debris Tracker users have logged more than 2 million items around the world. The data gathered by the app helps scientists to create a more comprehensive picture of marine debris and plastic pollution, while informing and empowering community decision-making.