Coca-Cola invests in global river clean-up

The Coca-Cola Foundation, in partnership with the Benioff Ocean Initiative at the University of California Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute, has invested $11 million in nine river clean-up programmes across the world.

The partnership will also identify new ways to prevent plastics waste from entering rivers and oceans. ”This is an important global partnership for a truly global challenge,” said Helen Smith Price, president of The Coca-Cola Foundation.

“Scientists have made great strides in identifying how important rivers are in carrying plastics waste to the ocean,” added Dr. Douglas McCauley, professor at UC Santa Barbara and director of the Benioff Ocean Initiative. “We are so thrilled to now use this research to strategically mount an intervention to this global problem.”

The programmes selected for funding span four continents: Asia, Africa, North America and South America.

According to The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Marea Verde project to clean up the Matias Hernandez River in Panama is the first to be awarded funding, in recognition of its innovative application of cutting-edge technology, creative and comprehensive outreach strategy, and strong interdisciplinary leadership team.

“Panama contributes to marine trash with an estimated 100,000 plus tonnes per year,” said Mirei Endara, co-founder of Marea Verde. “Since October 2017, we have manually captured and prevented over 1,100 tonnes of trash from reaching the ocean just from the Matias Hernandez watershed and river mouth. From the characterisation pilots carried out in our river site, we know that over 55 per cent of this trash is plastics.”

Endara explained that with this funding “we will be able to integrate technology and artificial intelligence into our project, which will help us be more effective in collecting trash at our river site, generate pertinent data and develop the capacity to work with communities in this watershed. Our ultimate goal is to provide best practices that may be replicated in other watersheds in Panama and the world, in an effort to positively impact the river plastics challenge.”

Eight other programmes – in Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Ecuador, Mexico, Thailand, Jamaica and Kenya – are also being finalised for funding. Details of these, including the specific rivers and locations, will be announced in the future.

“We are definitely excited about getting this plastics waste out of our rivers and oceans,” said McCauley. “But we are also excited to turn this plastics waste into data that can help us turn off the tap of this waste in the first place.”

Established in 1984, The Coca-Cola Foundation is Coca-Cola’s international philanthropic arm.