'Interceptor' to filter river debris

'Interceptor' to filter river debris

Dutch non-profit group, govt team up

The government is teaming up with Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch non-profit environmental organisation, to intercept rubbish from the Chao Phraya River before it enters the ocean, in order to help tackle Thailand's growing marine debris problem.

Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) director-general, Sopon Thongdee, signed a memorandum of understanding with Ocean Cleanup's CEO, Boyan Slat on Wednesday to launch a pilot project in Samut Prakan, to see if the technology developed by Ocean Cleanup is suitable for use in Thailand.

The project also doubles as a marine debris research project, he said.

Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Varawut Silpa-archa and Mr Slat began the discussion to deploy the "Interceptor" in Thailand and integrate it into the country's waste management strategy in November 2019, Mr Sopon said.

The Interceptor is a machine developed by Ocean Cleanup which is capable of filtering up to 4 tonnes of rubbish and other debris from rivers and other bodies of water.

"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," Mr Sopon said.

The solar-powered equipment will be deployed at three locations along the Chao Phraya River in Samut Prakan, with the first one to be installed near Chulachomklao Fort, said the director of Marine and Coastal Resources Research & Development Institute, Sumana Kajonwattanakul.

According to Ms Sumana, as much as 2,172 tonnes of rubbish which Thailand produced -- equal to around 173 million items of trash -- ended up in the ocean in 2017.

In 2019, the figure dropped to about 702 tonnes, or 42 million items, after the government rolled out several measures to curb the use of plastic, she said.

Mr Sopon said the rubbish intercepted by the machine will be sorted in accordance with the circular economy principles.

In addition to the deployment of the Interceptor, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has asked the cabinet to approve more collaborations between Thailand and the Netherlands, especially on the issues of the environment and the circular economy, he said.

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