In recent years, Bali has been called the trash island in the world after a British diver recorded himself in one of the island's most iconic dive spots fully surrounded in plastics. In December 2017, the Balinese Government even declared a trash emergency.
With 80 percent of plastic pollution in our oceans coming from rivers and streams, Make A Change World is launching 100 trash booms around Bali to prevent plastics going out to sea under its latest project Sungai Watch.
Sungai Watch is Make A Change World's newest project aimed at tackling the alleyways of plastic pollution, our rivers. "In the last 10 years, we have launched expeditions in some of the world's most polluted rivers and have seen first hand the urgent need for action." says Gary Bencheghib, founder of Make A Change World.
With the support of beer Bintang, Make A Change World are launching their 3 first river booms in tributaries of the Ayung river, Bali's most important waterway. The river booms will be set up in the coming weeks and will follow an interactive educational campaign aimed at raising awareness about the importance of not throwing plastics in our rivers.
"We did this to show our commitment to support the Indonesia tourism industry and keep Bali as the star destination. We believe that the best way to prevent trash running to the beach and sea should be started from responsible waste management behavior and the local habit of throwing rubbish into the river should be eliminated immediately," said PT Multi Bintang Indonesia Niaga Marketing Director, Mariska van Drooge.
The booms are engineered by the German based company Plastic Fischer, an environmental startup founded by three friends, Georg Baunach, Karsten Hirsch and Moritz Schulz. They have the goal to intercept plastic pollution in our rivers through affordable technology solutions. For the past 5 months, they have been setting up waste collection solutions in Java including their proven successful pilot trash booms on the Citarum river. "We invented effective trash booms that are made of local materials to provide a simple and cost efficient waste collection solution for rivers as soon as possible. They are easy to assemble and maintain" says Moritz Schulz, Plastic Fischer's leading engineer.
Two years ago, Gary and his brother Sam rowed down the Citarum River in Indonesia known to be the most polluted river in the world. Their two week expedition inspired Indonesian President Jokowi to clean the river. Since their expedition, Indonesia has deployed 7,000 military troops who are actively involved in the clean up. The clean up has become a priority on the President's agenda and a national concern. So much so that there is university programs dedicated to the clean up and an important journalist coalition who are documenting the progress daily.
"We came up with the idea for Sungai Watch as a way to monitor rivers and unite communities in doing so. Imagine watching the cleanup of the world's most polluted river in real time." says Gary. Sungai Watch's online platform will be made available to the public in early 2020. It uses GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping and artificial intelligence (AI) to see details in rivers of up to 10 centimeters. Gary hopes that it will be the go-to platform to clean rivers worldwide.
- Ocean Cleanup Team Unveils Solar Powered 'Interceptor' to Collect ... ›
- Ocean Cleaning Device Succeeds in Removing Plastic for the First ... ›
- How Two Brothers Convinced the Indonesian Government to Clean ... ›
Environmental activists and filmmakers Gary Bencheghib and Sam Bencheghib stand up paddled the Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal Dec. 2 to show the global scope of the pollution crisis and the importance of acting now to clean our waterways.
Gary and Sam are producing an eight-part video series documenting the state of both waterways as well as interviewing experts and sustainable leaders in Brooklyn to give more insight to the current environmental situation here. The series entitled #BroCleanBKLN premiered on Facebook Dec. 7.
The French brothers started their journey at the Newtown Creek just under the Grand Street bridge and paddled outwards into the East River. The Newtown Creek located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn is the oldest continuous industrial area in the U.S. and also the site of one of the largest oil spill in U.S. history, a culmination of decades of oil leakage.
Sam and Gary Bencheghib in Newtown Creek, Dec. 2. Eliana Alvarez Martinez
In 2010, the creek was also named a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Gowanus Canal, also a Superfund site, has been referred to as "one of the most contaminated places in America," poisoned with industrial pollutants and pumped full of raw sewage. The EPA's cleanup is still in its preliminary stages and it remains highly polluted with the creek bed coated with old tires, car frames and discarded junk. Although the pollution is not entirely noticeable at first sight, the slight smell of petrol and revolting toilet smells are still persistent.
Sam and Gary Bencheghib in Gowanus Bay, Dec. 2. Marco Vitale
By both river mouths, the brother's journey quickly turned around when they saw a lot trash floating on the water's surface. So Gary and Sam decided to turn their expedition around and clean up the rivers.
"There is no more away, even in a city like New York our waterways are filled with plastics," said Sam Bencheghib.
The older brother, Gary, who has been a Brooklyn resident for the past four years said to his camera crew at the end of the expedition, "In increasingly uncertain times for our environment, there has never been a more important time than now to take action to clean up and restore our waterways. If we can start by showing a good example here in New York, the world will follow!"
MORE FROM SAM AND GARY
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Gary Bencheghib and Sam Bencheghib
On August 14, we set out to kayak down the world's most polluted river, the Citarum River located in Indonesia, to document and raise awareness about the highly toxic chemicals in its waters and the masses of plastics floating on its surface.
We paddled a total of 68km in two weeks on two plastic bottle kayaks from the village of Majalaya, located just south of Bandung to Pantai Bahagia, the river mouth at the Java Sea. Each kayak was made of 300 plastic bottles to demonstrate that trash can have a second life.
Throughout the expedition, we released videos documenting our journey and spotlighted community-based initiatives and individuals who work tirelessly towards restoring the river.
These groups include Bening Saguling Foundation led by Indra Darmawan, Ibu-ibu bersih, Pak Sariban and Jurig Runtah. After completing our descent, our videos were watched by hundreds of thousands online and eventually reached the Indonesian Government. Last Friday in Jakarta we met the Director of Waste Management under the Ministry of the Environment (KLHK), R. Sudirman. During this meeting R. Sudirman announced an emergency plan to clean up the Citarum River as a response to our campaign and videos.
For the next 4 months, Sudirman and his team will be surveying the river and creating a road map of the most polluted parts of the river. His goal is to work hand-in- hand with the 13 City Mayors along the Citarum River, the Provincial Head and the Governor of West Java.
From the moment we stepped foot inside our kayaks, we were completely submerged in trash. At times the water would turn into shades of red, blue and black as a result of the hundreds of textile factories that dump lead, mercury and other chemicals into the river. The industrial and domestic waste prompted environmental groups Green Cross Switzerland and the Blacksmith Institute to name it as one of the world's 10 most polluted places.
Although it seems impossible to clean the river after all the destruction its been through, we are very grateful to have the Indonesian government's support in restoring one of the country's most important rivers for the 15 million people that depend on it.
By Gary Bencheghib and Sam Bencheghib
With more than 80 percent of plastic pollution in the ocean originating from rivers and streams, we have decided to create a shocking visual of the world's most polluted river, the Citarum in Indonesia, by kayaking down it on two plastic bottle kayaks made from repurposed trash.
We launched Plastic Bottle Citarum to help make people think about the dangers that pollution has on human health. Located in West Java, the Citarum river is the water source for 15 million people for drinking, cooking and bathing.
The two kayaks we are paddling were built by the bamboo experts, EWABI. Each kayak has a bamboo frame and is filled with 300 plastic bottles to keep us afloat, which were collected by our partner, EcoBali, from school groups and waste facilities.
The goal of the expedition is to raise awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution and to inspire positive change by documenting some of the incredible and innovative efforts that are fighting the plastic epidemic in Indonesia.
During our expedition, we will be producing a series of five short videos documenting our descent down the river and highlighting the change-makers living on the river who dedicate their lives to cleaning up the Citarum and educating the local community on the impacts of pollution.