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Siblings Remove Vast Amounts of Trash From Rivers

In Indonesia, the worsening plastic pollution crisis has led young Sam Benchegjib to start Sungai Watch – an environmental organization dedicated to keeping the country's waterways clean by installing river barriers to prevent plastic and other trash from entering the ocean. It's a remarkable conservation success story.

River barrier in Indonesia that collects trash
Credit: Sam Benchegjib | Sungai Watch

An average of 2,000 kilograms (4,400 pounds / 2 tonnes) of plastic waste per week can leak into the ocean from just a single village. Proper management of plastic waste (and education about its damage) is sadly lacking in coastal communities and Indonesia is the world's second worst contributor to ocean pollution, reports environmental non-profit Mongabay.

Whilst the government has now promised to invest $1 billion to cut 70 percent of its marine plastic waste by 2025, Sam Benchegjib and his two siblings have been endeavouring to tackle the problem since 2020 by establishing Sungai Watch. It's been a tough learning curve but Sungai Watch has now successfully cleaned several of Indonesia’s most polluted rivers and revived mangrove ecosystems that have been damaged because of plastic pollution, using a system similar to litter booms.

They have installed 180 trash barriers along Indonesia’s most polluted rivers, and have grown from a team of 3 siblings to 100 full-time staff. So far, at least 1.2 million kilograms (2.6 million pounds / 1,200 tonnes) of plastic waste has been collected from river systems.

In equally good news, Sungai Watch have had to remove some of their barriers as they were no longer useful due to the lack of plastic pollution after working upstream with communities on education and raising awareness about properly managing waste at the household level.



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