Elephant in the Ocean

NREM study finds plastic pollution is outpacing cleanup models

  • 22 September 2020
  • Author: Mark Berthold
  • Number of views: 2746
Elephant in the Ocean

Living in Hawaiʻi and seeing firsthand the global impacts of plastic on local shores, and being part of grassroots change in plastic consumption, got postdoc Megan Barnes “really interested in using my skills to help make a difference in the global challenge of plastic pollution.”

But after an exhaustive study of aquatic ecosystems around the world, the frightening conclusion of her new study is that, even if multilevel mitigation strategies are in place to combat plastic pollution, there will need to be additional, extraordinary efforts put in place to reduce plastic emissions by 2030. 

“A huge volume of plastic will continue to leak into the ocean, even if ambitious targets are met,” says the former researcher in the Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Management. “Even if we do everything else perfectly, innovative solutions are needed in all parts of the plastic waste pipeline.”

The study, “Predicted growth in plastic waste exceeds efforts to mitigate plastic pollution,” appears in the latest issue of Science.

Megan adds, “As a cross boundary issue, it can be seem really daunting, but there are solutions – at all levels of government in every country – that every business can implement, and that each person can support in their personal decisions, and by talking to their own communities and representatives.”

Read the full story in UH News.


  • Easter Island landfill on fire (M. Eriksen)
  • Net capturing plastic waste in the North Pacific Gyre. (Tyler Mifflin)
  • Ascension Island, South Atlantic (M. Eriksen)
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