Does it sometimes feel like the bad news is just overwhelming and you say to yourself, I’d like to help, but I’m just one person, what can I do to make things better? Well here’s a truly inspiring story about two brothers that decided they could make a difference by kayaking down the world’s most polluted river.

Gary and Sam Bencheghib, 22 and 20 respectively, have lived in Bali, Indonesia for most of their lives. So, why you ask, are two brothers that grew up in paradise doing videos on garbage?


About eight years ago Gary and Sam were young surfing dudes riding the waves off the shore of Bali when they were engulfed in a sea of garbage. Remember this was long before plastic in the ocean was the international issue that it is today. But that surfing experience became a life motivating moment for the brothers.


Make a Change Bali!

make a change worldThe brothers decided to take things into their own hands, literally. They started Make a Change Bali and organized weekly beach clean-ups that eventually involved more than 300 people and local schools and businesses. (logo – Make a Change Bali)

Although Bali is their adopted home, Gary moved to NYC to enroll in film school where he produced videos on important environmental issues threatening Bali. #PickUpAPieceOfTrash became a series of 30 videos that not only focused on problems but also the change makers on the island that were taking positive action.


The World’s Most Polluted River

Living in Indonesia the brothers were never far from monumental pollution stories. The Citarum River in West Java has been called the world’s most polluted river with nearly 300 tons of industrial waste and 25,000 cubic meters of household waste dumped into the river every day, so the Citarum was a story waiting to be told.


The brothers decided to get close to their subject by kayaking a portion of its length and a nice touch was building the kayaks out of plastic bottles (300 bottles each) and bamboo.

citarum river world;s most polluted riverGary and Sam were so close to the toxic, chemical polluted water that they started their trip wearing full body suits, but with the heat that proved unbearable.(photo

On the second day, Sam decided to get really immersed in his subject by falling into the river. He decided that this was not a good idea and jumped from the water, fortunately their support car was not far away and they were able to quickly wash him off.

Unfortunately, this is not a luxury that many of the 15 million people that live along the river have. Where the industrial pollution is the worse it has even poisoned the ground water. The locals have no choice but to “shower in it, boil it to drink and wash their clothes in it” with unimaginable health implications.


Ever wonder where all that Ocean Plastic comes from?

citarum river pollution plastic world's most polluted riverOver the next two weeks the brothers paddled 68 kilometers down the polluted river to where the Citarum empties its mass of floating garbage into the Java Sea.

In many of our Blue Ocean articles on ocean pollution we wondered where the plastic in the Pacific gyre and on the beaches of some of the world’s most isolated islands originated, well now you know where at least some of it comes from.

It is estimated that 80% of the plastics that end up in the ocean begins in rivers like Indonesia’s Citarum. See: Thousands of Miles Away Is Not Far Enough To Escape Plastic Pollution and Could 5 countries solve 50% of the world’s Ocean Plastic Pollution?

“Plastics is having a major toll here in Indonesia. Being the biggest archipelago in the world, we really wanted to created a shocking visual of all this trash that’s coming in from our rivers into the ocean,” says Gary.



In addition to the central message regarding the evils of plastic garbage, the fact that the brothers built their kayaks out of plastic bottles demonstrated that plastics are not just to be thrown away, but that they are a valuable resource that can be repurposed for many other uses.



The videos that were created during the brother’s trip have now been viewed by hundreds of thousands online enabling their message to get through to the Indonesian government.

Recently the brothers met with the Ministry of the Environment‘s Director of Waste Management and during the meeting an emergency plan to clean up the Citarum River was announced. The intention is for the National Government to work with the mayors of the 13 cities along the river to create a blueprint for tackling the rivers monumental pollution issues.

Let’s hope they can turn expectations into reality not only for the Citarum but for all the polluted rivers in Indonesia.

by Bob Frerck, Blue Ocean Network


See these additional Blue Ocean Posts on Plastic Pollution:

More Ocean – Less Plastic. Join the 5 Gyres Ambassador Program
Thousands of Miles Away Is Not Far Enough To Escape Plastic Pollution
Our Plastic Ocean
Does Your Coffee Cup Take 30 Years to Break Down?
UN Environment Declares War on Ocean Plastic
The Ocean Bottle brings attention to our Daily Plastic Waste
Microfiber Pollution from THE STORY OF STUFF
An Action Agenda to Clean-Up Our Ocean
Polluting Plastics Ban, Good News from Davos
Take the No Plastic Straw Please Pledge


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