quality and human health. The February 2015 issue of Science estimated eight million metric tons of plastics leak into the sea annually. According to the 2020 Pew Charitable Trusts report Breaking the Plastic Wave , the annual plastic flows to the ocean are expected to grow from Pew’s calculation of 11 million metric tons in 2016 to 29 million metric tons in 2040. Science Advances 2017 article stated that approximately 420 million metric tons of plastics were produced worldwide, with production expected to triple by 2050. Less than 10 percent of plastic trash produced has been recycled, and it is the fastest growing component of municipal waste. So, can Rhode Island and its public flagship research university contribute to a global conversation that seeks to understand and manage plastics pollution? Sandra Whitehouse, ‘94 Ph.D., president of Ocean Wonks, founding member of Ocean Collectiv and consultant and senior policy adviser to Ocean Conservancy, replied emphatically. “Of course, the answer is yes,” Whitehouse said. “We have seen Rhode Island really excel in several areas, such as being the first state in the country to have an offshore wind project in the water, which was due in large part to the Ocean Special Area Management Plan. Obviously, URI had a major role in the development of that plan. We have seen that Rhode Island has been able to accomplish things quicker, more efficiently and more thoroughly because of its size.” University President David M. Dooley expects the institution to serve a similar role in tackling plastics pollution in the ocean.

DAVID M. DOOLEY President The University of Rhode Island

Photo by Beau Jones

Page 14 | The University of Rhode Island { MOMENTUM: RESEARCH & INNOVATION }

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