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Bangkok’s trash-choked Chao Phraya river to be cleared of tonnes of plastic waste

Bangkok’s rubbish-clogged Chao Phraya river is poised to become a little healthier after non-profit organisation The Ocean Cleanup deployed an ‘Interceptor’ craft to sift out as much as 1.5 tonnes of trash per day that would otherwise flow into the Gulf of Thailand.

Despite colour-coded recycling bins and well-organised facilities in the Thai capital, plastic funnels into the Chao Phraya from multiple adjoining canals and waterways. Once it reaches the Gulf it is eaten by marine life or returns to the shore as debris and microplastics that embed themselves in the food chain.

The Ocean Cleanup officially launched the Interceptor – a floating, solar-powered rubbish sorter with bins to take away the river’s trash for recycling or proper disposal – 50km away from the river’s mouth at the Gulf.

“Our mission is to rid the world’s oceans of plastic and to do that we need to tackle the 1 per cent of the most polluting rivers on Earth that are jointly responsible for about 80 per cent of all the plastic that flows into the ocean,” The Ocean Cleanup’s founder Boyan Slat told This Week in Asia. “That includes the Chao Phraya in Bangkok.”

Interceptors, which use wide booms that are able to funnel waste into a sorter in tidal rivers, have already been deployed in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.

Slat soared to fame through a viral TedTalk over a decade ago as an impassioned 18-year old diver and environmentalist and has since won the backing of global brands from band Coldplay to Coca-Cola.

He said the Interceptor in Bangkok should be able to handle between half a tonne and 1.5 tonnes of trash a day.

“It really depends on the conditions,” he said. “In some other rivers that we are deployed in it fills really quickly so in [Klang river in]