According to National Geographic, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean each year and some of those materials take at least 400 years to break down. When you factor in other waterbodies, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that number can reach up to 23 million tons. UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen states, “We will not recycle our way out of the plastic pollution crisis: we need a systemic transformation to achieve the transition to a circular economy.”
The Ocean Research Project (ORP) is seeking to do just that with its Pilot Study to Grade Chesapeake Bay’s Plastic Pollution. This pilot study is intended to seed an ongoing monitoring effort for plastics pollution trends in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, as well as facilitate change to human behavior by providing information about the abundance of single-use plastics and their environmental effects. The Woodard & Curran Foundation hopes to help ORP’s mission to determine particle concentration of plastic pollution across the largest estuary in the country by awarding the non-profit organization the 2023 Impact Grant. This one-year $100,000 grant provides key funds necessary for the ORP to survey the Chesapeake Bay and produce a bay-wide infographic educating the public about the of the extent of this water quality indicator. The work will be shared with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the media and ultimately aid in prioritizing land-based plastic source management strategies.