Portoviejo River, Ecuador

Project lead: Ichthion Ltd


The Portoviejo River flows over 100 km and discharges directly into the Pacific Ocean, off the southern coast of Ecuador. The river originates in the Santa Ana municipality, and feeds the valley of the Manabí province supplying water to over 53% of its urban and rural population. The river supports the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena biodiversity hotspot, which fosters mangrove and dry woods ecosystems. It is an important source of water and natural heritage, and is a lifeline to some of the poorest communities in the country.

Manabi’s ecosystems are under intense pressure due to human activities, such as land use changes, intensive agriculture and insufficient waste management activities. Each day 1,107 t of waste are produced in Manabí and disposed of in inefficient waste management sites: open sky dumps and pop-up cells. The waste collection coverage in urban areas reaches 90%, while in rural areas it barely reaches 60%. The common practice for communities that do not have access to waste collection is to dump all waste into the river. These conditions have affected the Portoviejo River’s ecosystem services and diminished its capacity to protect the flora, fauna and human populations from the adverse effects of climate change.

Intervention Plan

Combining the latest research on fluvial pollution with passive fluid dynamics, probabilistic modeling, and material transport, the project will use the Azure river system to collect plastic waste in the Portoviejo River. The Azure barrier is a floating curtain that moves with the tidal range of a river. Intercepted material is directed towards extraction points and aggregation of physical material is avoided. The barrier is porous, preventing upstream-downstream pressure imbalance, with a set pore diameter and density to trap even small items of waste, such as cigarette filters and bottle tops. The target depth of the barrier allows fluvial fauna to pass under it and minimizes the number of microscopic organisms trapped in the barrier. Additionally, the system implements a censoring system to classify and measure the recovered material. This generates invaluable data for decision making and evidence-based policymaking, which is why this project is being implemented under an alliance with the local provincial government.

Once collected, plastics are separated and processed to become flakes and distributed for recycling. Optimizing the collection of plastics and their value chain plays an important role in the project’s strategy. To address the issues caused by plastic pollution (and other suspended solids) in the Portoviejo river, Ichthion Ltd will also work with the existing waste miners associations where up to 75% are female recyclers, promoting financial inclusion.

Community Engagement

The communication and outreach plan will have three stages: awareness, education and behavior. These aims to engage the community, government, and the general public to generate better local policymaking and local industry transformation. The campaign will target the Ecuadorian community (mainly millennials), government, and general public via social media with strong data-backed communication. Ichthion is using a technology called Visual IA, to collect data and translate it into meaningful insights and messaging.

The Team

ichthion logoIchthion is a multi-award winning company born out of the laboratories of Imperial College London that seeks to overcome the limitations of existing technologies by delivering the first truly scalable solutions to reduce the flow of plastics into the world’s oceans, proposing energy-generative systems that uniquely can be installed in rivers, coastal areas, and the oceans to remove plastic waste and generate data.

Ichthion team photo


Ichthion’s website: http://ichthion.com/