• Outdoors Outdoors

Volunteer shares innovative method used to prevent waterways from being choked by trash: 'Everywhere should have one'

"Thank you for doing your part."

"Thank you for doing your part."

Photo Credit: TikTok

Rivers are a major source of the plastic pollution that flows into our oceans, but one group of volunteers has revealed its inventive method for catching plastic before it gets any further. 

In a viral TikTok video, Gary Bencheghib (@garybencheghib) introduces the metal barriers used by Sungai Watch to filter river water for plastic as it flows down Indonesian waterways.

The barrier acts like a net, which allows the water to continue flowing while preventing plastic from traveling with it to the sea. Volunteers from Sungai Watch then collect the huge pile-up of rubbish from the water. 

It's not easy work — multiple clips show the massive amount of plastic that the rivers deliver to the barriers every day.

"Cleaning our rivers is a daily job," Bencheghib wrote in a caption. 

@garybencheghib Cleaning our rivers is a daily job #bali #fyp #foryourpagz #surf #plastic #pollution #rivers @makeachange.world ♬ Funky Town - The Dance Queen Group

As much as 80% of the plastic in the world's oceans comes from rivers. 

Once it has escaped into these marine environments, the sheer scale of the ocean makes it extremely difficult to collect — much of the plastic sinks to the ocean floor or breaks down into microplastics.

The impact that this plastic pollution has, both on people and the environment, is significant. One review study recently found that 60% of fish worldwide now contain microplastics. 

As people ingest fish, those microplastics make their way up the food chain into our own bodies. Microplastics have been discovered in our blood, lungs, and the placentas of unborn fetuses. They are even small enough to break through the blood-brain barrier

The health effects of this could range from reduced sperm counts to Parkinson's disease and some cancers

Aquatic wildlife also suffers, particularly birds and mammals who get caught in large plastic items — 300,000 porpoises, whales, and dolphins get entangled in plastic nets each year, which can cause a painful death through starvation or suffocation.

To prevent this damage from escalating, river barriers have become an increasingly popular solution. 

Some use grates, like the one demonstrated by Sungai Watch, while the Netherlands have experimented with a bubble barrier, and German company Plastic Fischer has invented a floating net, which they call the TrashBoom.

These plastic barriers can be reasonably effective. Since 2019, Plastic Fischer claims to have caught 1,227 tons of river plastic — weighing the same as around 481 cars.

TikTokers were certainly impressed by the barrier used by Sungai Watch.

"Thank you so much sir for taking care of our ocean!" one wrote.

"Everywhere should have one," another commented.

"We should all do [our] part in keeping Earth alive and healthy," another said. "Thank you for doing your part."

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