How Activists Are Using A Giant Screen To Clean Up A Guatemalan River


Las Vacas river bridge in Chinautla, on the outskirts of Guatemala City
Las Vacas river bridge in Chinautla, on the outskirts of Guatemala City

The non-profit group The Ocean Cleanup has installed a steel-mesh screen on a heavily polluted river outside Guatemala City, in a bid to stop plastics and other debris before they reach the ocean. The Las Vacas river is strewn with mounds of trash deposited by fluctuating river currents. As the rainy season starts, all of it could be swept downstream into the Caribbean, if it weren’t for a device the group calls an Interceptor Trashfence.

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The Ocean Cleanup project's river barrier is currently being tested in the Las Vacas river. The barrier, which is similar to a metal fence, is meant to catch trash before it enters the ocean. According to Boyan Slat, director of Ocean Cleanup, the river carries about 20,000 tons of trash annually.

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The tests are ongoing to find the most effective way to install the barrier. We are still testing different variables such as fence height, mesh size, and foundation security during this pilot period in Guatemala,” the group said in a statement. According to complaints from Honduras, much of the plastic ends up on their shores.

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Image Credit: AP Photo/Moises Castillo

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