Plastic bottles and rubbish piles wash up on the beaches of a once-pristine Honduran fishing village’s beach. It is brought down from a very contaminated river in neighboring Guatemala.

The Rio Motagua in Guatemala goes from the outskirts of the country’s capital, Guatemala City, to the Caribbean Sea. What was once a raging river has slowed to a trickle in some sections, clogged with rubbish.

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

Slat and his colleagues are racing against the clock to catch the rubbish, which is expected to weigh roughly 20,000 tonnes each year, before it reaches the sea.

“(This) is probably the most important river in the world when it comes to plastic pollution,” Slat said, noting that the river now contributes around 2% of total plastic emissions to the seas, according to his group.

According to The Ocean Cleanup, the problem arises mostly from Rio Las Vacas, a tributary of the Rio Motagua that is straddled by an urban landfill north of Guatemala City and also suffers from unlawful garbage disposal.

The group has already built a chain-link fence that spans the width of the Rio Las Vacas, forming a type of dam to halt garbage before it reaches the river’s stem.

According to The Ocean Cleanup, although the barrier is not yet completely functioning, it might be critical in intercepting the plastic. Slat, on the other hand, believes that appropriate waste management is the long-term answer.

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

Source: Reuters

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