Waste engineer Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia surveys plastic waste in a southeast Asian village, where it will be recycled to make raw material for more plastic products. Jambeck advises Asian governments on how to keep plastic trash out of waterways.

The engineer views a landfill as a living ecosystem, and the plastic that clogs it as a serious threat that crowds out life and never goes away. Can we eliminate the waste before it smothers us?

(Image credit: Courtesy of Amy Brooks)