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Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Plastic Pollution Working Group
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Plastic Pollution Working Group


Plastic has become so ubiquitous in our daily lives that global plastic production approached the combined weight of the human population in 2015 (Worm et al., 2017). Unfortunately, much of this plastic ends up in the environment as litter, and it is estimated that 710 million metric tons of plastic waste will enter the environment by 2040, even with immediate and concerted action (Lau et al., 2020). All plastics generate microplastics and nanoplastics (Jahnke et al., 2017), which are easily consumed by marine animals. In fact, a report by the United Nations indicated that over 800 species have been negatively impacted by marine debris, about three-quarters of which is plastic pollution (Harding, 2016). Even humans are consuming plastic, with researchers estimating that we consume up to a credit card worth of plastic each week (Senathirajah et al., 2021; Charlton, 2019).

About Us

The Plastic Pollution Working Group at Duke University aims to better understand the issues surrounding plastic pollution and work to find solutions to this global issue through interdisciplinary research and collaboration. Our primary goal is to create a convening space for students and faculty to meet, collaborate, and share their work related to plastic pollution. The Plastic Pollution Working Group is comprised of faculty members and students across nine schools and departments at Duke University. Our group is highly interdisciplinary, though group members’ research falls within the six broad themes.

Work with Us

If you would like to work with the Plastic Pollution Working Group at Duke University, please email us at

Plastics Working Group logo


The Plastic Pollution Working Group is funded through a Pre-Catalyst Grant awarded by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. The idea for this group was conceived by Dr. Meagan Dunphy-Daly, Dr. John Virdin, Michelle Nowlin, J.D., Dr. Jason Somarelli and Zoie Diana, Ph.D. student.

Bass Connections
Duke Cancer Institute
Duke Kunshan University
Duke University Marine Lab
Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic
Duke Fuqua School of Business
Duke Department of History
Duke Law
Duke University School of Medicine
Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability
Nicholas School of the Environment
Duke Pratt School of Engineering



Charlton, E., 2019. You eat a credit card’s worth of plastic a week, research says. World Economic Forum. Available at:….

Jahnke, A., Arp, H.P.H., Escher, B.I., Gewert, B., Gorokhova, E., Kühnel, D., Ogonowski, M., Potthoff, A., Rummel, C., Schmitt-Jansen, M., Toorman, E., MacLeod, M., 2017. Reducing uncertainty and confronting ignorance about the possible impacts of weathering plastic in the marine environment. Environmental Science & Technology Letters 4 (3), 85–90.

Harding, S. (2016). Marine Debris: Understanding, Preventing and Mitigating the Significant Adverse Impacts on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity. Available at:

Lau, W.W.Y., Shiran, Y., Bailey, R.M., Cook, E., Stuchtey, M.R., Koskella, J., Velis, C.A., Godfrey, L., Boucher, J., Murphy, M.B., Thompson, R.C., Jankowska, E., Castillo, A.C., Pilditch, T.D., Dixon, B., Koerselman, L., Kosior, E., Favoino, E., Gutberlet, J., Baulch, S., Atreya, M.E., Fischer, D., He, K.K., Petit, M.M., Sumaila, U.R., Neil, E., Bernhofen, M.V., Lawrence, K., Palardy, J.E., 2020. Evaluating scenarios toward zero plastic pollution. Science.

Senathirajah, K., Attwood, S., Bhagwat, G., Carbery, M., Wilson, S., and Palanisami, T. (2021). Estimation of the mass of microplastics ingested – A pivotal first step towards human health risk assessment. Journal of Hazardous Materials 404, 124004. doi:10.1016/j.jhazmat.2020.124004.

Worm, B., Lotze, H.K., Jubinville, I., Wilcox, C., Jambeck, J., 2017. Plastic as a Persistent Marine Pollutant. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 42, 1–26.