The giant floating machine that will clean Costa Rica's dirtiest river

Costa Rica will soon have an unusual response to the solid waste it dumps into the Pacific Ocean.

The Rio Grande de Tárcoles is perhaps the most contaminated river in Central America.1

Into the Tárcoles River flows untreated, garbage-filled water from Costa Rica’s crowded capital. While the Los Tajos treatment plant cleans some of that water, a significant percentage of the pollution still ends up in the Pacific Ocean.

As of last year, 34 municipalities continue dumping untreated water into the Tárcoles or its tributaries, causing “alarming” ecological damage, Teletica reports. (Not to mention the harm this does to Costa Rica’s eco-friendly reputation.)

Costa Rica will soon have an unusual solution to the solid waste that pollutes the Pacific Ocean through the Tárcoles River: a floating, trash-collecting contraption called “The Interceptor.”

“Costa Rica will have the Interceptor system that will eliminate floating debris,” announced President Carlos Alvarado. “It will be located on the Río Grande de Tárcoles. It can collect up to 50 m3 (50,000 liters) of waste for processing.

“We are a country of the sea, and we must take care of it.”

The Interceptor is “the first scalable solution to prevent plastic from entering the world’s oceans from rivers,” say its makers, The Ocean Cleanup. The machines are already operational in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Dominican Republic.

“It is 100% solar-powered, extracts plastic autonomously, and is capable of operating in the majority of the world’s most polluting rivers,” The Ocean Cleanup explains.

The system guides floating debris into The Interceptor, where it is extracted from the water via a conveyor belt and deposited into onboard dumpsters. Operators can then transport debris to the proper waste-management facilities, and garbage-free water flows onward to the ocean.

The Interceptor doesn’t solve the root of Costa Rica’s problems: wastewater infrastructure that is sorely lacking. But it’s a small step toward cleaner oceans, and that is a noteworthy effort.

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