Rivers are pathways of wastes, including plastic waste, from inland to the ocean. Thus, it is ideal to impede wastes entering rivers by stopping littering and by providing waste collection services.  

Indonesia has collected wastes from banks and beds or channels of some big rivers, such as the Citarum River, which passes through the southern part of Bandung. In 2013, the Citarum River was proclaimed the dirtiest river in the world by some international environmental organisations because of its huge amount of wastes, including plastic, a dominant waste besides pollutants from textile industries. About 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste, resulting from high population and insufficient waste treatment, enter the Citarum River daily. In 2018, the local government developed Citarum Harum (Fragrant Citarum), a programme to transform the water quality of this 270-kilometre river to one suitable for drinking. The programme works by sending 1,400 military troops every day to collect wastes along the Citarum River. To increase its efficiency, the programme is aided by Plastic Fischer, a German company concerned with plastic waste issues. The company has installed trash or debris booms, filter-like equipment that retains plastic waste, up to a depth of 60 centimetres. The collected wastes are distributed to local waste banks in Bandung for sorting and treatment. In 2019, clean-up activity was initiated in the Bengawan Solo River, the biggest river in Java Island, which flows from southwestern Solo (Central Java) to northern Surabaya (East Java), in celebration of World Cleanup Day. Through the coordination of the Local Environmental Biro and the Local Disaster Relief Agency, hundreds of youth volunteers and locals collected up to 1.2 tonnes of wastes from a catchment area in Bojonegoro (East Java). The collected wastes were then transported to a local landfill site. This initiative was complemented with a theatre show, fun games, and prizes to attract more people to join. In the same year, Indonesia conducted a pilot research to prevent plastic waste from entering the ocean through rivers. Danone-AQUA, a drinking water company, collaborated with Ocean Cleanup and the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment, to unveil Interceptor 001, a solar-powered machine that can prevent up to 60% of plastic leakage from entering the ocean (AQUA, 2019Widyaningrum, 2019).

The Republic of Korea has a programme to collect waste at estuaries by using floating fences and trash racks for collecting wastes in small rivers (Figure 1). The trash rack is usually made from cheap materials such as bamboo or local wood (Figure 2). One key point in the conduct of such programmes is determining who will bear the cost of collecting and disposing wastes. Sharing the burden amongst stakeholders may be necessary. At present, the expenses in proper waste collection and disposal are borne by local governments in river basins, with subsidy from the central government.

Figure 1. Trash Rack in Jakarta, Indonesia

Source: Michikazu Kojima.

Figure 2. Bamboo Trash Rack in Bangkok, Thailand

Source: Michikazu Kojima.

Waste Collection at Beaches

As continually conducted for more than 30 years, the biggest worldwide initiative in beach clean-up is the International Coastal Clean-up. In September 2018, more than 1 million people from 22 countries participated in the clean-up and collected 10,000 tonnes of wastes. In ASEAN+3 countries, the programme involved more than 331,000 people from 11 countries.

In January 2019, the Government of the Philippines launched the Manila Bay Rehabilitation programme to clean up designated estuaries and waterways, implement solid waste management, and reduce the level of faecal coliform. One of the highlights was the clean-up of Baseco Beach in Manila during the World Clean Up Day on 21 September 2019. Thousands participated in the event, which collected 187 tonnes of waste.

Waste Collection at Oceans

Floating wastes cause damage to ships. Thus, government authorities who oversee ports and shipping routes require ships to collect and clean up wastes in the oceans (Figure 3).

Figure 3. A Ship Collecting Floating Waste in Takamatsu, Japan

Source: Michikazu Kojima.

Some fisherfolk in Japan voluntarily collect wastes from the ocean with help from the Social Sports Initiative Association (Yasuhumi, Maeda, and Asano, 2015) and are also involved in another government programme. For instance, in Kagawa Prefecture, the government has a voluntary agreement with some associations of fisherfolk that assigns them the task of bringing back wastes accidentally collected by fishing nets; the coastal local governments collect the waste free of charge. The disposal cost is jointly borne by local governments in the prefecture, including coastal and inland municipalities.   

In another case, a fisher in Hue, Viet Nam, collects plastic wastes from the ocean and sells them to a junk shop. He donates part of his revenue to a local youth union that supports poor students.

A fishing port in Jakarta once had a seawater purification system that utilised tidal range fluctuation to capture oil in seawater and remove floating wastes, including plastic waste (Orishimo, 2004). The system, a sub-component of Phase IV of the Jakarta Fishing Port/Market Development Project, and supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency from 1993 to 2002, constructed a pond between the port area and the sea. The gate of the pond to the port area would be opened during high tide to allow seawater to flow inside. A screen installed in the ditch linking the port and the pond would then capture the floating wastes, including plastic waste. The gate would be closed at the end of high tide. The mangrove forest and its eco-system purified the water. During low tide, the gate between the pond and the sea would be opened, allowing the water to be discharged to the sea. Although not operational anymore, the system can be considered as an innovative infrastructure in collecting floating wastes from the ocean.    

Opportunities to Raise Awareness

Collecting wastes from rivers and beaches is a good opportunity to raise awareness. The Social Sports Initiative, a non-profit association in Japan, has organised Spo Gomi, a competition to collect wastes in Japan and where a team of five compete for points calculated based on the type of waste. A research shows that such competitions attract more people to join clean-up events. According to the organiser of the event, such activities raise environmental awareness (Bay, personal communication, 2012). Spo Gomi events are organised by local governments in, for example, the cities of Tokyo and Yokohama and the prefectures of Aomori, Fukui, Saitama, and Wakayama. Busch (2019) pointed out that, based on the interviews with participants of beach clean-ups in Europe, experience-based learning at beach clean-ups has the potential to directly change people’s perceptions about plastic that can drive new pro-environmental plastic behaviours. Thus, public participation in cleaning up plastic waste in the environment may lead to the reduction of littering and other behavioural change.    


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