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Ocean Conservancy, Local Partners Launch Innovative Plastics Trapping Device in Major Vietnamese River

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ocean Conservancy and the Vietnam-based Centre for Marinelife Conservation and Community Development (MCD) have launched a waste capture device in Vietnam’s Song Hong (also known as the Red River) and its tributaries in the province of Nam Dinh. It is the first in a series of devices, colloquially known as trash trappers, to be installed by Ocean Conservancy and MCD in the Song Hong system over the next two years. In addition to helping to protect rich river ecosystems and the communities that depend on them, the trash trappers will serve as the bedrock of efforts to collect data on plastic pollution in one of the countries most impacted by the ocean plastics crisis.

“The latest science confirms that we need a suite of solutions to fight ocean plastic pollution, from reducing our reliance on virgin plastics to improving waste collection and recycling to cleaning up the plastic waste that does end up in the environment,” said Chever Voltmer, director of Plastics Initiatives at Ocean Conservancy. “Rivers often serve as a pathway for plastics to travel out to sea, so trash trappers like these are important cleanup tools. What makes this particular model so unique and promising is that it is inexpensive, locally designed, and made from locally sourced materials.”

“Several tools to collect trash in waterways have been invented and manufactured around the world, but they either are at the experimental stage or are too expensive to replicate and address the needs of local communities,” said Ms. Ho Thi Yen Thu, Permanent Deputy Director of MCD. “MCD and our partners have researched, designed, and built this river trash capture tool right here in Vietnam; and after one year of testing on the Song Hong we know that it works, collecting an average of 100 pounds of waste per day.”

The Song Hong is the second longest river in Vietnam, flowing through the capital city of Hanoi and ending in the coastal province of Nam Dinh, which is home to a rich migratory bird habitat and mangroves that support local fisheries.

Over the course of the grant period, the trash trapper will be monitored by a local operational team, overseen by MCD, that will remove, sort, and quantify debris from the device every three days. High-value plastic waste, such as bottles, will be sold to recycling facilities; while low-value plastics, like bags and films, will be sorted and processed by a special facility in Nam Dinh, Moi truong xanh (Green Environment) Nam Truc Ltd. In addition, Ocean Conservancy experts will work with Vietnamese scientists to analyze what is collected to better understand the sources of the waste and help create strategies to stop it at the source.

Scientists estimate that 11 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean every year. As Vietnam’s population continues to grow, the amount of waste produced in the country is expected to double in the next 10 years.

First announced in 2020, the work is funded through the Benioff Ocean Initiative’s Clean Currents Coalition, which is supporting this and eight additional river cleanup programs across the world. Over the course of the grant, the various programs will have opportunities to share data and best practices with the goal of identifying more globally replicable solutions.

Construction and implementation of this first trash trapper was completed on schedule, all while following local COVID-19 safety precautions. Recent reports of a new wave of the virus in Vietnam and lockdowns in the country are being assessed and maintenance plans will be adjusted accordingly.

“Our priority during these challenging times is the health and safety of those involved in the project,” said Vien Tran, Ocean Conservancy’s Vietnam senior manager. “Alongside MCD, we are taking all the necessary precautions to ensure that our colleagues on the ground remain healthy.”

NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos of the device are available here.

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About Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® Program

Ocean Conservancy has led the fight for a clean, healthy ocean free of trash since 1986, when the U.S.-based nonprofit launched its annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Since then, Ocean Conservancy has mobilized millions of ICC volunteers to remove trash from beaches and waterways around the world while pioneering upstream solutions to the growing ocean plastics crisis. Ocean Conservancy invests in cutting-edge scientific research, implements on-the-ground projects, and works with conservationists, scientists, governments, the private sector and members of the public to change the plastics paradigm. To learn more about our Trash Free Seas® program visit oceanconservancy.org/trashfreeseas, and follow Ocean Conservancy on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

About MCD

The Centre for Marinelife Conservation and Community Development (MCD) is a Vietnamese NGO established since 2003, pioneering marine ecosystem and environment conservation, striving for a sustainable coastal zone of Vietnam with healthy and safe environment, sustainable ecosystems and good quality of life for its coastal communities, especially the most vulnerable.

For more information, please visit www.mcdvietnam.org

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