Nature and Biodiversity

How do we end ocean plastic pollution? Go to the source of the problem – dirty rivers

A local resident walks along a section of Matahari Terbit beach covered in plastic and other debris washed ashore by seasonal winds near Sanur, Bali, Indonesia April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Johannes P. Christo     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1AF6081DA0

The Ocean Cleanup Foundation attempts to collect plastic from the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch". Image: REUTERS/Johannes P. Christo

Hilde Verweij
Reporter, Reuters
Stephanie van den Berg
Reporter, Reuters
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Nature and Biodiversity?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Future of the Environment is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Future of the Environment

A Dutch foundation devoted to fighting plastic pollution in the world's oceans on Saturday unveiled a new device designed to stop it from reaching the sea in the first place: by collecting and cleaning plastic waste from major rivers.

The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a non-governmental organisation best known for its attempts to collect and clean plastic from the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch", said it has been testing a system based on similar principles -- a floating barrier to collect plastic passively -- for use in rivers.

Have you read?

"To solve the plastic pollution problem we need to do two things: we need to clean up what's already in the oceans, for that we of course have the Ocean Cleanup System," founder Boyan Slat, 25, told Reuters.

"Now we also hope to tackle the other side of the equation: preventing more plastic from reaching the ocean in the first place."

The foundation's ocean system uses a large floating boom to collect rubbish. After initial setbacks and adjustments to the system, Ocean Cleanup reported earlier this month that it managed to pick up plastic from the high seas for the first time.


How UpLink is helping to find innovations to solve challenges like this

The river version, called the Interceptor, consists of a vessel that is anchored to a riverbed while floating arms -- which leave space for animals and river traffic to pass, organisers say -- divert waste into its collection system.

The system has already been tested on rivers in Jakarta, Indonesia and in Klang, Malaysia, the organisation said on Saturday. Two more are planned for Can Tho in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Ocean Cleanup said that is still testing the river system and will not give out numbers on plastics collected until a rollout phase has been completed.

According to the group each device is capable of extracting thousands of kilograms (pounds) of detritus per day.

Slat said that 1% of rivers are responsible for 80% of the pollution in the world's seas. That makes finding a solution to the problem of plastic pollution emanating from rivers "quite achievable", Slat said.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How to unlock $10.1 trillion from the nature-positive transition

Zhu Chunquan, Qian Wu and Susan Hu

July 15, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum