Thailand testing Dutch technology to keep rivers clean.

The best way to prevent garbage from polluting the oceans is to prevent it from ever reaching the sea. So, Thailand will test the “Interceptor,” a new technology developed by a Dutch non-profit Ocean Cleanup that scoops up garbage and debris from rivers.

The Interceptor is a barge-style vessel that can filter up to 4 tons of plastic and rubbish from rivers and other bodies of water. Thailand will employ one Interceptor near the mouth of the Chao Phraya River as a pilot project. The Chao Phraya spills into the Gulf of Thailand and the Pacific Ocean.

Should the pilot prove successful, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, would then purchase more of them.

“This innovation should help curb the volume of free-floating rubbish before it actually gets washed out into the ocean, mitigating the impact of marine debris on endangered marine creatures and coastal marine ecosystems,” said Sopon Thongdee, Director-General of the Department.

The Interceptor is solar powered. Strategically located in a river, debris flows into its mouth and is then carried by a conveyor belt to containers on board. The floating vacuum cleaner can be operated remotely, even from another country.

“Most plastic in the oceans originates from rivers around the world. Rivers are responsible for 80 percent of the plastic entering the oceans. We need to close the tap,” said Boyan Slat, the Founder of Ocean Cleanup in the Netherlands.

Thailand is among the top ten countries responsible for plastic and other debris entering the oceans. The Kingdom has vowed to tackle the problem and took a leading role in forging an agreement among countries in the region to drastically reduce ocean debris.

The Thai Cabinet recently endorsed a National Action Plan to manage plastic waste proposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE).   The plan aims to reduce plastic waste by banning certain types of one time use plastic products and bringing at least 50 per cent of plastic products into the circular economy by means of reusing and recycling by 2020.  Under this plan, MNRE projected to reduce plastic waste by 780,000 tons per year.

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