The Benioff Ocean Initiative at the University of California Santa Barbara's Marine Science Institute and the Coca-Cola Foundation have announced the launch of an initiative focused on cleaning up rivers around the world.
The partners will award grants totaling $11 million over three years to support the cleanup of rivers in Asia, Africa, and the Americas and create data-informed communication campaigns that use information about the captured waste to help modify the behavior of people, local communities, and businesses. The first project out of the gate, Marea Verde, which is focused on the Matias Hernandez River in Panama, features cutting-edge technology, a comprehensive outreach strategy, and an interdisciplinary leadership team. Programs in Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Ecuador, Mexico, Thailand, Jamaica, and Kenya are being finalized and will be announced at a future date.
According to Marea Verde co-founder Mirei Endara, Panama generates more than a hundred thousand tons of marine trash annually. But since "October 2017," said Endara, "we have manually captured and prevented over eleven hundred tons of trash from reaching the ocean just from the Matias Hernandez watershed and river mouth. From the characterization pilots carried out in our river site, we know that over 55 percent of this trash is plastics."
"With this funding," she added, "we will be able to integrate technology and artificial intelligence into our project, which will help us be more effective in collecting trash at our river site, generate pertinent data, and develop the capacity to work with communities in this watershed. Our ultimate goal is to provide best practices that may be replicated in other watersheds in Panama and the world, in an effort to positively impact the river plastic challenge."