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Catching plastic with river barriers in Bali

A community cleanup team is building a plastics recovery station and saving our ocean from 50,000 kilograms of inorganic waste.

Image © Sungai Watch

Image © Sungai Watch

Key facts

  • Only One members are funding the removal of 50,000 kilograms of plastic from rivers, mangrove forests, beaches, and illegal landfill sites in the regency (kabupaten) of Gianyar, Bali.

  • The project collects, sorts, and processes ocean-bound plastic, protects marine life from pollution, and helps nurture local communities to find long-term waste management solutions.

  • Over 80% of plastic waste in the ocean comes from rivers, so by building innovative barriers for catching and cleaning up inorganic materials, our plastics removal partner Sungai Watch tackles a major choke point in the fight against global marine pollution. By January 2023, Sungai Watch will install five co-branded river barriers sponsored by Only One.

  • Sungai Watch works to form meaningful, enduring community partnerships. Their plastics removal project in Gianyar employs 11 people, with up to 50 local volunteers joining cleanups on a regular basis.

How the project works

1

Sungai Watch organizes and carries out daily cleanups of every plastic-catching barrier sponsored by Only One members, supported by a team of around 55 “river warriors” working in mangrove forests, inland waterways, and along coastlines in Bali.

Sungai Watch

2

A dedicated subteam sorts every piece of trash into over 15 categories, including identifying what can be repurposed or recycled. Sungai Watch has an ambition to ensure 0% of plastics and other inorganic waste collected by their team ends up in landfill.

Sungai Watch

3

It is estimated that on the island of Bali, just 4% of plastic waste is recycled. To change this, Sungai Watch washes, shreds, and prepares all trash fit for recycling. They also recover organic waste, which is turned into compost or biochar and returned to riverbanks and farms to revitalize soils.

Sungai Watch

4

Sungai Watch’s team records and analyzes data from every cleanup to spark conversations with stakeholders around how to curb plastic pollution, advocating for our ocean and the communities that depend on it.

Sungai Watch

5

Every plastic waste category is given value. Right now, Sungai Watch is experimenting with turning trash into products.

Sungai Watch

Become a member of Only One today to fund Sungai Watch’s project and take direct action to save the planet — planting your own ocean forests and coral reefs, and removing plastic and carbon pollution.

Project impact

All projects on Only One help save the ocean and fix the climate, and 100% of our members’ funds always go to impact. You can learn more and see proof of our 100% model on our Transparency page. Keep reading to discover how our “Catching plastic with river barriers in Bali” project is having a positive effect.

Biodiversity and ecosystems

Sungai Watch focuses on a major choke point in the global plastics crisis: decreasing river pollution. By funding this cleanup project, Only One members are supporting and promoting healthy rivers and preventing plastic waste from getting into the sea. The complex network of waterways, coastlines, and open ocean in Indonesia, where Bali is located, plays an important role in regulating our atmosphere, so plastics removal efforts assist with ecosystem restoration and climate stabilization.

Since installing their very first barrier in Bali in 2020, the team at Sungai Watch has diverted more than 333,000 kilograms of plastic from rivers. One of their focus areas is recovering mangrove forests — the carbon-capture powerhouses that help tackle climate change in a whole host of ways. Not only do ocean trees absorb and store 4 to 10 times more carbon than rainforests, but they also protect coastlines from storms, flooding, and erosion, and provide a safe haven for a vast range of marine life.

Join our Million Mangrove Challenge to learn more about the power of ocean trees and plant your own!

Sungai Watch

Plastics removal

Through this project, Only One members are directly funding five river barriers in the Gianyar regency, which has an area of 368 square kilometers, with an emphasis on the city of Ubud. Sungai Watch works to introduce innovative infrastructure and advance essential waste management practices in areas currently without effective solutions. In just one year, their team designed, tested, and deployed more than 100 trash barriers in waterways across Bali, experimenting with technologies such as booms, nets, cages, and blocks to learn how we can best improve our initiatives on land to protect the ocean.

In an exciting development, Sungai Watch is now in the process of building a barrier made of 100% recycled trash recovered from the very rivers they clean and preserve. The team at Sungai Watch has also created a crowdsourced map of “emergency” areas in need of restoration, with a hotline for illegal landfills and plastic-polluted rivers, championing invaluable local knowledge and insight. Their ambitious next goal on the horizon? To install plastic-catching barriers in every river in Indonesia by 2025 🙌

Sungai Watch

Community development

Indonesia currently ranks as the second largest contributor to marine plastic pollution after China, largely due to a lack of waste management and recycling infrastructure. To help combat this, Sungai Watch actively engages with local communities at a village level, working to form meaningful, enduring relationships. Whenever new river barriers are introduced, Sungai Watch consults with farmers association representatives, religious leaders from the village, and the kelian banjar (district head). Each new project, including Only One’s, is started as a partnership, with youth groups and local women’s clubs playing vital roles.

Over 90% of Balinese residents live within one kilometer of a river, and with their plastics recovery project expanded to Gianyar thanks to Only One members’ funds, Sungai Watch will support an estimated 510,000 locals who depend on waterways to sustain their livelihoods and health. The project employs 11 people — 5 patrol team members responsible for cleaning the barriers and riverbanks each day, 5 sorting staff who process the trash collected at Sungai Watch’s Ubud facility, and a plastics recovery station manager — with up to 50 local volunteers joining cleanups on a regular basis.

Sungai Watch

Advocacy and education

For Sungai Watch, installing barriers to catch and clean up plastics is just the beginning of implementing effective, efficient, and long-term solutions. In addition to having a positive impact on the environment, they act as a conversation starter, supporting educational workshops designed to encourage better waste management. Local community engagement is an essential part of how Sungai Watch approaches protecting Indonesian waterways, and their team builds on this impetus to advocate for a healthy ocean at the government level, raising awareness and demanding change from influential stakeholders and decision makers.

Gary, Kelly, and Sam Bencheghib, founders of Sungai Watch

Sustainable Development Goals

Only One members’ funds go toward projects corresponding to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs our “Catching plastic with river barriers in Bali” project supports are:

Project reporting

New photos and videos from the field will be shared on a monthly basis, so members of Only One will see their impact come to life in real time! Sungai Watch will send Only One a quarterly report on how the plastics removal project is progressing, including the total amount of plastic collected, a waste breakdown, and insights into how our sponsored river barriers are benefiting local communities. Explore our project implementation reports in our Impact Dashboard, or dive straight into the latest from Sungai Watch here.

Sungai Watch

More about our plastics removal partner

With over 80% of plastic waste in the ocean coming from rivers, Sungai Watch believes that the best way of tackling plastic pollution includes directly cleaning up river ecosystems, collaborating with local communities to develop affordable and actionable solutions, provide accessible education, and share knowledge with stakeholders. Founded in 2020 by Gary, Kelly, and Sam Bencheghib, Sungai Watch is now a team of around 55 passionate “river warriors” working every day to fight ocean-bound plastic. Their bold mission is to place at least 1,000 barriers to remove plastic from rivers in Indonesia by 2023!

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