Activists try giant screen to clean up Guatemalan river

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The non-profit group The Ocean Cleanup has installed a huge, steel-mesh screen on a heavily polluted river outside Guatemala City, in a bid to stop plastics and other debris before they reach the ocean.

The Las Vacas river is strewn with mounds of trash deposited by fluctuating river currents. As the rainy season starts, all of it could be swept down stream into the Caribbean, if it weren’t for a device the group calls an Interceptor Trashfence.

Looking something like a big cyclone metal fence stretching across the river bed, the screen is anchored to the river banks. The device caught so much trash that one part appeared to have buckled.

“What we are trying to do is help clean up,” said Boyan Slat, director of Ocean Cleanup, noting that “we have never seen plastics pollution like this.” He estimate the Las Vacas river carries about 20,000 tons of trash annually.

Tests are ongoing, to find the right way to install it the barrier.

“We continue to evaluate variables such as fence height, mesh size, and foundation security during this pilot period in Guatemala,” the group said in a statement.

The trash has sparked complaints in Honduras, on whose shores much of the plastic winds up.

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