Cleanup crews trap plastic on Guatemalan river to protect ocean

RIO LAS VACAS, Guatemala, June 9 (Reuters) – Plastic bottles and piles of rubbish lay on the shores of a once pristine beach in a Honduran fishing village. It comes from neighboring Guatemala, transported by a heavily polluted river.

Guatemala’s Rio Motagua runs from the edge of the country’s capital, Guatemala City, to the Caribbean Sea. What was once a roaring river is slowing to a trickle in some areas, choked with trash.

“Everywhere you look, the mountains, the forest, the coastline, it’s absolutely beautiful…for me it was very shocking to see (the pollution),” said Boyan Slat, founder of The Ocean Cleanup. .

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Slat and his team are racing against time to trap the waste, estimated at around 20,000 tonnes a year, before it reaches the sea.

“(This) is probably the most important river in the world when it comes to plastic pollution,” Slat said, with the river currently contributing about 2% of total global plastic emissions to the oceans, according to his organization.

The problem stems largely from a tributary of the Rio Motagua, known as Rio Las Vacas, which is overlapped by an urban landfill north of Guatemala City and also suffers from unauthorized waste dumps, according to The Ocean. Cleanup.

The organization has now installed a chain-link fence the full width of the Rio Las Vacas, creating a kind of dam to stop the waste before it reaches the trunk of the river.

Although not yet fully operational, the fence could be the key to intercepting the plastic, according to The Ocean Cleanup. However, Slat points out that a long-term solution lies in good waste management.

“If we can stop (plastic) here, it will be a major success for the oceans,” Slat said.

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Reporting by Luis Echeverria for Reuters TV; Written by Kylie Madry; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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