In the News from Panama

Innovative New Technology Cleaning Panama River

In what might be a model for environmental clean-ups, an environmental group is using new technology to clean a Panama river. 

Described as “Latin America’s first renewable fuel-powered, trash-trapping wheel,” the technology is in use on the Juan Diaz River, which passes through Panama City. The wheel is powered by water and solar energy, and uses a camera system and artificial intelligence to analyze waste and provide data for public education and policy, Reuters reports.

The non-profit environmental group Marea Verde launched the technology in September. By mid-October, the wheel had gathered 28.6 cubic meters of plastic bottles from the water.

“Cleaning beaches is good, but it is more effective and cheaper to trap garbage in rivers because when it reaches the ocean, the environmental and economic cost becomes too high,” said Robert Getman the leader of the project.

Marea Verde has been actively cleaning waterways in Panama for five years. Before the pandemic, the group used a floating device that cleared more than 100 tonnes of waste from rivers.

The wheel technology is based on a similar “trash wheel” that was successful in the United States.

But Marea Verde’s Sandy Watemberg says the real issue is the casual use of single-use plastics.

“The most important thing is to achieve a change in habits,” she said.