This Team Collects Plastic Waste Polluting Rivers & Upcycles Them Into Beautiful Furniture

Sungai Watch has prevented more than 2,030,000 kgs of plastic from going into the ocean.

Cover image via @emmett_sparling/@sungaiwatch (Instagram)

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Every day, millions of pieces of plastic waste end up in rivers.

Items like plastic cups, plastic bags, packaging, and diapers eventually end up in the ocean, harming the environment and wildlife.

But one team is on a mission to combat this.

Founded in 2020 by Gary, Kelly, and Sam Bencheghib in Bali, Indonesia, Sungai Watch now has over 100 passionate river warriors working to stop plastic from entering the ocean.

Since 80% of ocean plastic pollution comes from rivers, the team focuses on preventing it at its source.

Image via Sungai Watch

By using simple trash barriers and operating a collection, Sungai Watch collects, sorts, and upcycles plastic waste into valuable and sustainable products

Their team of 110 river warriors wades through trash — such as diapers, dirty bottles, and all sorts of rubbish — every day to collect plastic waste from rivers in Indonesia, the second-largest contributor of plastic pollution to the oceans after China.

They also organise emergency cleanups from illegal dumps and along riverbanks, as well as work on enforcing proper waste management at the local level.

By 2023, Sungai Watch had built 180 barriers and collected more than 982,000 kgs of plastic waste!

Watch this video below of Sam and his team clearing out rivers and drains, then sorting out the trash:


It’s now been 3 years since we started @Sungai Watch ! We have been cleaning rivers every single day since then, stopping plastic from going into the ocean, one river at a time. 200 barriers installed and 1.5 million kg of plastic recovered later, we’re hopeful that our trash barrier solution and our operation is creating real change. Here’s to the next 3 years and to continue the fight against plastic pollution until our rivers and oceans are plastic free

Summer day - TimTaj

After collecting the plastic waste, every piece is sorted into over 30 material categories.

The plastic is then washed, shredded, and prepared for recycling.

With the help of their sister company, Sungai Design, they innovate ways to recycle low-value plastic.

One of their upcycled products is the avant-garde Ombak Seater lounge chair, offered in various colours and crafted from river plastic.

For instance, the ocean blue Ombak Seater was made by upcycling 2,000 plastic bags.

Image via Sungai Design
Image via Sungai Design
Image via Sungai Design

Money sold from the items are used to help fund river cleanups around the world. 

Since Sungai Watch began three years ago, it has collected over two million kgs of plastic from Indonesian waterways.

Of that total, more than 36% consists of plastic bags.

The non-profit organisation has also installed over 270 floating barriers throughout Indonesia's rivers to stop the flow of plastic from reaching the ocean.

Their goal is to install 1,000 barriers to clean the world's most polluted rivers.

It's a small step, but reducing your use of single-use plastic, such as detergent sachets that can't be recycled or even the plastic bags you get when you bungkus food, can make a difference

Sungai Watch hosts education and cleanup events with local schools on a regular basis, while organising education sessions to engage communities and encourage better waste management.

Watch this video below:


Sachets: Small, but Mighty Polluters! Sachets are small single use packets used for things like shampoo and coffee that are popular in Indonesia because they are convenient and affordable. However most sachets are made of multiple layer of plastics and alumunium, which made recycling them are difficult and expensive. This is becoming a big environmental problem, as sachets are ending up in rivers and other places where they don’t belong. At @sungaiwatch we’re campaigning for a sustainable future by auditing brands and advocating for a ban on sachets. Let’s switch to refillable alternatives.

Golden Light - STRFKR

Here are some other ways you can help:
- Sponsor a barrier
- Help fund more river and illegal landfill cleanups
- Sign up to be a volunteer
- Report a dirty river

You can follow Sungai Watch on TikTok and Instagram to see more of the work they do. 

To find out more, visit their 

Whether it's saying 'no' to containers when you bungkus food or refilling detergents instead of buying single-use bottles, every small change in behaviour counts:

Here are more incredible people making a difference and helping the environment:

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