Panama river cleaned up by trash-trapping wheel in a green first

Published November 2, 2022
Panama City: A conveyor belt picks up garbage as a self-sustainable water wheel traps trash while it floats down the Juan Diaz river, one of Panama’s main waterways, before it spills into the Pacific Ocean.—Reuters
Panama City: A conveyor belt picks up garbage as a self-sustainable water wheel traps trash while it floats down the Juan Diaz river, one of Panama’s main waterways, before it spills into the Pacific Ocean.—Reuters

PANAMA CITY: Latin America’s first renewable-powered, trash-trapping wheel whisks away garbage floating down one of Panama’s most important but heavily polluted rivers before it spills into the Pacific Ocean, thanks to an initiative by a local environmental group.

The wheel, fueled by hydraulic and solar energy, collects the vast amounts of waste produced in the capital Panama City with its metro population of around two million people. Tonnes of trash often flow into the sea each year.

“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 project leader Robert Getman.

Installed by environmental group Marea Verde, the wheel is named Wanda Diaz, in part a reference to the Juan Diaz river where it spins.

Wanda Diaz launched in late September in a river basin since drenched by heavy rains, which in turn propelled plastic bottles and containers into Wanda’s mechanical arms.

By mid-October, Wanda had collected 22 1.3 cubic meter bags of plastic bottles.

The Juan Diaz river is one of the most polluted in the country due to poor waste management, little regulation of real estate development, and its course across Panama City, one of Central America’s largest cities. The waterway is nevertheless home to lizards, turtles and birds that live in its mangroves.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2022

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