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Morgan Stanley, NatGeo partner with UGA Engineering to fight plastic waste

Partnership aims to engage citizen scientists and create a better understanding of debris and plastic pollution in coastlines and waterways through open data

Morgan Stanley, National Geographic Society and the University of Georgia College of Engineering today announced a partnership to scale and enhance the citizen science movement to help prevent and reduce plastic waste in coastlines and waterways through support for the Marine Debris Tracker (Debris Tracker). The Debris Tracker is a mobile app developed by UGA Engineering researchers Jenna Jambeck and Kyle Johnsen that allows individuals to log plastic waste pollution.

The app also offers a suite of 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 2 million items tracked to date. Together, this partnership will improve understanding of the sources of plastic debris and pollution, generate scientific findings, inform solutions and inspire upstream design.

“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.”

This partnership is a significant step in Morgan Stanley’s Plastic Waste Resolution aimed at tackling the growing global challenge of plastic waste in our environment. Announced last April, the Morgan Stanley Plastic Waste Resolution represents a strategic, firmwide commitment to catalyze, support and help scale the innovations and business-based solutions to reduce plastic waste. By 2030, these efforts will help 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.

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. Through the partnership, Morgan Stanley has committed to support the growth and development of the tracker for ten years.

“We’re grateful to be working with Morgan Stanley on this important global problem," said Jambeck, a professor in the UGA College of Engineering and one of the world's leading authorities on plastic pollution in the oceans. "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.

“We’re looking forward to deepening our work to address the global challenges of plastic waste in partnership with Morgan Stanley,” said Tunde Wackman, partnership solutions director at the National Geographic Society. “Through their support, we will bring together science, technology and education to engage citizen scientists around the world to advance solutions to help combat the billion tons of plastic waste around the world.”

For more information about the Debris Tracker, please see here. To read more about Morgan Stanley’s Plastic Waste Resolution, please see here

About Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley is a leading global financial services firm providing investment banking, securities, wealth management and investment management services. With offices in more than 41 countries, the Firm's employees serve clients worldwide including corporations, governments, institutions and individuals. For more information about Morgan Stanley, please visit www.morganstanley.com.

About the University of Georgia

Chartered by the state of Georgia in 1785, the University of Georgia is the birthplace of public higher education in America – launching our nation’s great tradition of world-class public education. What began as a commitment to inspire the next generation grows stronger today through global research, hands-on learning and extensive outreach. A top value in public higher education, Georgia’s flagship university thrives in a community that combines a culture-rich college town with a strong economic center.

About the National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit www.nationalgeographic.org.

Photo courtesy National Geographic

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