• Outdoors Outdoors

Timelapse of river cleanup project shows jaw-dropping results: 'You are doing something meaningful'

"Disgusting that we have this problem, and beautiful there are people actively working to do something about it."

"Disgusting that we have this problem, and beautiful there are people actively working to do something about it."

Photo Credit: Instagram

River barriers are an increasingly popular defense against plastic pollution, with one group of litter pickers in Indonesia showing their effectiveness in a viral timelapse video.

Sungai Watch (@sungaiwatch) has spent the past three years collecting plastic from Indonesia's waterways, with help from the 200 river barriers installed throughout the country.

The group's video demonstrates the vast scale of litter that accumulates at each barrier. Entire intersections of water, both in cities and rural areas, are completely choked with piles of plastic.

Once enough trash has gathered, the litter pickers arrive to remove it all from the water. Since Sungai Watch first began, it has collected over 1,650 tons of plastic.

"We have been cleaning rivers every single day since then, stopping plastic from going into the ocean, one river at a time," the Instagram account wrote in a caption. "We're hopeful that our trash barrier solution and our operation is creating real change."

Positioned at strategic points along waterways, river barriers catch plastic items before they can follow the river to the ocean.

Around 8 million tons of plastic enter the world's oceans each year, with nearly 80% coming from our rivers. This presents an opportunity to drastically reduce plastic pollution — and with far greater efficiency than collecting it from the ocean.

Once plastic reaches the ocean or the sea, it breaks down into microplastics and nanoplastics, which are difficult to retrieve. It also wreaks havoc on marine wildlife. Hundreds of thousands of whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and seabirds die after getting tangled up in trash each year. 

Around 90% of seabirds and 52% of turtles have ingested plastic, with one study showing that sea turtles confuse the smell of decaying plastic with food. With a stomach full of trash, marine animals do not feel hungry, and they end up starving to death.

Plastic is also endemic in the seafood we eat, with an estimated 77% of humans now carrying traces of microplastics in our blood. 

Once ingested, microplastics can move around the body, accumulating in the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and even the brain. Studies have linked microplastics to falling sperm counts, some cancers, and the onset of Alzheimer's.

To protect ourselves from plastic pollution in the future, finding solutions to remove it from our environment — like what Sungai Watch has done — will prove crucial. 

"Wonderful, deep respect to you and your team," one Instagram user commented.

"That is brilliant! You are doing something meaningful," another added.

"Disgusting that we have this problem, and beautiful there are people actively working to do something about it," said another. 

Join our free newsletter for cool news and cool tips that make it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider