The Ocean Cleanup recently launched its Interceptor™ Original trash collection system for testing in the Can Tho River in Vietnam, one of 15 major rivers where the solar-powered solutions will be deployed as part of a global partnership with The Coca-Cola Company.
The partnership aims to help stem the tide of marine waste by deploying projects to intercept plastic debris in primary waterways before it can reach the ocean. Alongside a deployment in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the Can Tho River in the Mekong Delta is one of the first rivers to be confirmed under the scope of partnership, with additional local announcements to follow in the coming months. The robotic solution – which can extract up to 55 tons of marine trash and debris per day – will become fully operational in Vietnam over the next few months.
The People’s Committee of Can Tho and the Can Tho Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DoNRE) are supporting the Vietnam project. DoNRE and local operators will conduct river waste research to scale up the project where appropriate.
“We expect that this river cleanup project will make an important contribution to help the city improve the capacity and efficiency in waste collection, segregation and treatment; at the same time, prevent and thoroughly collect waste, especially plastic waste floating on some major river routes in Can Tho City,” said Nguyễn Chí Kiên, vice director, Department of Natural Resources and Environment of Can Tho City. “At the same time, this project will greatly contribute to Can Tho City’s goal towards an ecological and modern city, imbued with the identity of rivers and the Mekong Delta, visioning by 2030. To get there, we are looking forward to joining hands of non-profit organizations, private sectors and Can Tho citizens in such environmental protection projects, maintaining our position as an ASEAN Environmentally Sustainable City.”
In Vietnam, Coca-Cola will support local waste management solutions for collected debris and connect The Ocean Cleanup with local stakeholders. Coca-Cola was one of the founding members of Packaging Recycling Organisation (PRO) Vietnam, a partnership with other leading companies, recyclers and government agencies to accelerate local packaging collection and recycling.
“Right now, our packaging is among the waste that can be found in the ocean. This is unacceptable to us,” said Leonardo Garcia, general manager, Coca-Cola Vietnam and Cambodia. “We want to support partners and technologies that help to clean up our oceans and rivers, especially the Mekong River system – one of the critical river systems in ASEAN that flows to oceans. Through innovation and partnership, we’re also working to create circular solutions for the collection and recycling of our bottles in Vietnam. That’s why we’re very excited about this new partnership with The Ocean Cleanup in Vietnam, starting in our beautiful Can Tho River, and we’re looking forward to making a lasting impact through this work.”
The global partnership, which pairs Coca-Cola’s scale and network with The Ocean Cleanup’s technology and data-driven solutions, will implement the Dutch nonprofit’s Interceptor solution in 15 rivers by the end of 2022. The two organizations also will engage the private and public sectors to help tackle plastic pollution.
“The Ocean Cleanup’s mission is to rid the oceans of plastic,” said Boyan Slat, founder and CEO, The Ocean Cleanup. “I am happy to see progress and our first steps together with Coca-Cola on the road to tackling the complex plastic pollution problem in the vast Mekong Delta and its sensitive ecosystems. This is good news for the oceans.”
The partnership supports The Coca-Cola Company’s World Without Waste sustainable packaging goal to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one it sells by 2030, while substantially reducing the use of virgin packaging materials and using only 100% recyclable packaging materials. Achieving this vision requires investment in innovation and collaboration with partners to drive collection, recycling and sustainable design.
Intercepting Plastic Waste in the World’s Rivers
Unveiled in 2019, the Interceptor is the first scalable solution to collect plastic from rivers – the arteries that carry plastic waste from land to sea. Waste flowing with the river current is guided by a barrier towards the opening of the Interceptor. Thanks to the vessel’s catamaran design, the water flow path is optimized to pass through the system, carrying plastic with the current onto a conveyor belt and delivering the waste to a shuttle that automatically distributes it across six dumpsters before returning to shore for recycling.
Coca-Cola will work with The Ocean Cleanup to integrate Interceptors into existing or emerging programs wherever possible. Local teams will work with waste management coalitions to sort and eventually, where possible, turn captured PET plastic bottles into new bottles.
Since 1995, Coca-Cola has supported Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), the world’s largest volunteer effort for the ocean and waterways, and is a founding member of the Trash Free Seas Alliance®. Recently, The Coca-Cola Foundation supported river-based cleanup systems through support to the Benioff Ocean Initiative at UC-Santa Barbara, which included grants to projects in nine countries.