Solid Waste & Recycling

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App allows ‘citizen scientists’ to track plastic waste


NEW YORK – Morgan Stanley, National Geographic Society and the University of Georgia College of Engineering have partnered to support the Marine Debris Tracker (Debris Tracker).

The Debris Tracker is a mobile app that allows individuals to log plastic pollution, and includes educational materials about the sources of, and solutions to, plastic waste. It is the only litter-tracking tool that enables users to learn by exploring and contributing to an open-data platform with over two million items tracked to date.

The partnership is intended to improve understanding of the sources of plastic debris and pollution, generate scientific findings, inform solutions and inspire upstream design.

This partnership part of Morgan Stanley’s Plastic Waste Resolution aimed at tackling the growing global challenge of plastic waste. By 2030, Morgan Stanley expects to prevent, reduce and remove 50 million metric tons of plastic waste from entering our rivers, oceans, landscapes and landfills.

Recognizing that the challenge of plastic waste is a systemic issue that requires innovation, business model optimization and financing, Morgan Stanley is committed to partnering with diverse stakeholders – including research scientists and citizen scientists – to help address this challenge.

“We firmly believe that citizen-science tools, like the Debris Tracker, are powerful examples of how spreading awareness can help lead to better data and wider public interest in an issue that is impacting communities around the world,” said Audrey Choi, chief sustainability officer and chief marketing officer at Morgan Stanley.

“We’re excited to partner with transformative institutions like the National Geographic Society and the University of Georgia to help address the growing global challenge of plastic waste in our environment. This partnership will equip educators, volunteers and everyday explorers alike with the tools they need to get more involved where they live and play, and take steps to help curb plastic pollution.”

The Debris Tracker is an open-data citizen-science app, serving a varied audience of educational, nonprofit and scientific organizations as well as passionate citizen scientists. As its audience grows, its technology improves and the reach of the Debris Tracker expands, it will be critical that the tool continue to meet the rigorous scientific standards required to bolster research on this topic and provide a seamless and engaging experience for users of all ages. Morgan Stanley has committed to support the growth and development of the tracker for ten years.

University of Georgia professor Dr. Jenna Jambeck, said, “We’re grateful to be working with Morgan Stanley on this important global problem. We’re confident this partnership will help to accelerate the Debris Tracker’s impact, expand our citizen science efforts, spread awareness about the issue and empower communities with data to help prevent plastic pollution.”

As part of this agreement, the University of Georgia will seek to better understand and document how plastic waste travels from source to sea. National Geographic Society will also create a robust tool kit of educational resources to provide deeper understanding of the global plastic waste challenge and empower the next generation of scientists and explorers.