Plastic Pollution in Panama
Marea Verde, a Panamanian non-profit organization, is leading this river cleaning project in Panama City, Panama. The project is sponsored by the Benioff Ocean Initiative (BOI) via UCSB’s River Plastic Intervention Strategy.
Recognizing that plastic pollution is a major global threat to the oceans, it is a problem that needs to be addressed at the source: rivers. In 2019 Marea Verde deployed a floating barrier “Barrera o Basura” (Barrier or Garbage) or BoB near the Matías Hernandez River mouth, for the purpose of preventing garbage floating in the river reaching the Panama Bay and Pacific Ocean.
This BOI-funded project is designed to improve on the current system with the collaboration of Clearwater Mills, the developers of Mr. Trashwheel in Baltimore Harbor. Importantly, the project also integrates biophysical and socio-economic research to understand the impacts of plastics in the riverine ecosystem and the social and economic drivers for garbage disposal in the river. An artificial intelligence component has been introduced to analyze the garbage collected by Doña Rueda, the Panamanian version of Mr. Trashwhweel that is to be designed for this project. The information generated will be used in a communication strategy to address behavioral change in the communities upriver, as well as in certain events to promote awareness, such as exhibits in Panama’s Biodiversity Museum and visits by schools to the river plastic capture system.
The project integrates efforts of a team of private, public, academic and non-profit professionals who possess the experience, dedication and passion for this project’s success. In collaboration with Dr. Daniel Suman from the University of Miami, and with support from the Marea Verde team, Dr. Ana K. Spalding is co-leading the community engagement and research component of this project.