Jenna Jambeck is redesigning waste management


Jenna Jambeck is redesigning waste management

Right before Jenna Jambeck was returning to school to get her doctorate in environmental engineering in 2000, racing captain and oceanographer Charles Moore showed the industrialized world that its obsession with plastic had a cost.

Jambeck was disgusted.

Moore’s articles on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch described a swath of free-floating marine debris, much of it plastic, that is now twice the size of Texas. The discovery was horrifying evidence of the consequences of man’s fascination with disposable, prepackaged goods. But perhaps more horrifying was that the microplastic-filled soup of trash wasn’t the only one; it was just the first to be discovered.

“I felt like we were doing something wrong on land if our trash is ending up in the ocean,” says Jambeck, now an associate professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia. But a senior advisor at the time told her no one really cared that garbage was making its way from land into the world’s waterways. “Waste management in general, people haven’t really cared about that either.”  But to Jambeck, that was unacceptable.