VISION: A land-to-sea plastics research initiative to accelerate the implementation of long-term solutions to dramatically reduce plastics pollution. MISSION: A dynamic research network to convene, communicate, collaborate and accelerate ideas and strategies that inform society, guide public policy and reduce land- to-sea plastics pollutants. INTRODUCTION: Today, nearly everyone, everywhere, every single day comes into contact with plastics. They are durable, light- weight, affordable and effective materials that provide innumerable packaging and fabrication solutions for an enormous range of engineered products and uses that serve people in everyday life and also save lives. However, in a period of just a few decades, this vital invention has emerged as a serious environmental, social, technological and economic problem across the globe. In 2017 alone, approximately 430 million metric tons of plastics were produced worldwide, and production is expected to triple by 2050. The U.S. recovers less than 10% of its annual plastics production, and it is the fastest growing component of municipal waste. A landmark study by Jambeck et al. (2015) estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastics waste entered the oceans from land inputs during the year 2010 alone. As of 2020, it is estimated that about 5.25 trillion macro- and microplastics are circulating in our oceans. All studied ecosystems on Earth contain plastics. We are breathing nanoplastics in our air, even in some of the most remote places on the planet. Recent field work by faculty at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography found micro-plastics frozen within ice cores in the Arctic. The adverse effects of all of this, on human, marine and animal health and on the integrity of the food web that we depend on for life, are currently unknown. The COVID-19 viral pandemic has unfortunately led to a substantial increase in production and waste, with the dramatically increased need for gloves, visors, hospital gowns, masks and many other types of medical supplies. Likewise, city and town plastic policies and regulations have been paused or abandoned; volunteers are less likely to pick-up plastic waste on streets and beaches; and, single-use plastics are back in fashion. Although the current public health crisis is a top priority, the world needs to consider the implications of these trends over the long term. The proliferation of plastic and plastic waste and the massive difficulties inherent in source reduction and

Photo by Gwen Emery

Position Statement by The University of Rhode Island

Page 8 | The University of Rhode Island { MOMENTUM: RESEARCH & INNOVATION }

Made with FlippingBook Ebook Creator