Ocean Cleanup cleans the world’s most littered river – with a fence

Ocean Cleanup created a solution for collecting plastic in the oceans. The company is now testing a new catch barrier in the world’s most polluted river.

With the ambition of clearing the sea of ​​plastic, Ocean Cleanup developed a 600-meter-long U-shaped pipe that is towed by boats. A kind of net collects the rubbish, down to microplastic with a length of 1 mm. However, the development has not been without technical problems.

But it is possible to simplify the collection by tackling the problem closer to the source, in the rivers that carry the plastic to the sea. For three years, Ocean Cleanup has been developing the Interceptor Trashfence. The rubbish fence borrows the robust design from protective barriers intended for avalanches and rock falls. Here, the technology has been adapted so that debris can not pass.

Interceptor Trashfence is now being tested in what is considered the world’s most polluted river, Guatemala’s Rio Motagua. Every year, it carries 20,000 tonnes of plastic into the Caribbean Sea, which means that the river alone accounts for about 2 percent of the total emissions of plastic in the world’s oceans. It writes Ocean Cleanup in one press release.

Early in the project according to Ocean Cleanup

The fence is 50 meters wide and eight meters high, where three meters consists of a finer fishing net. The barrier collects rubbish during high flows and when the water level drops, the waste is removed with excavators and garbage trucks.

Ocean Cleanup points out, however, that it is early in the project, and the current fence should be seen as an experiment rather than a functioning collector. Their Interceptor Original can catch ten tons of debris before the barrier needs to be cleared – but at high flows in Rio Motagua, hundreds of thousands of kilos of plastic pass within a few minutes. This means that the original fence would be filled in principle immediately. However, the design has been further developed, and now the company is in its ninth edition.