Reducing Whale Strikes
Cutting River Plastic Waste

Cutting River Plastic Waste

The Benioff Ocean Initiative is now accepting proposals from interdisciplinary teams to launch a pilot project that will capture plastic waste in rivers before it reaches the ocean and create an associated communications campaign to reduce plastic waste.

Rivers around the world carry huge amounts of plastic waste from land to the ocean, threatening ocean health and the health of coastal communities. Almost 40 submissions to the Benioff Ocean Initiative’s crowdsourcing campaign highlighted this concern, including “Skimming the problem of ocean pollution” and “Identifying ocean plastic sources.” The Benioff Ocean Initiative and The Coca-Cola Foundation have each committed $1.5 million, for a total of $3 million, to support one interdisciplinary team in the implementation of a river plastic waste intervention pilot project.

It is estimated that the vast majority of marine plastic waste comes from land, and that almost all of this land-sourced marine waste is transported to the ocean from rivers. In fact, up to 275 metric tons of plastic are estimated to enter the ocean from rivers every hour on average, which affect the health of seals, sea turtles, whales, manta rays, and many other ocean species. The sheer volume of plastic waste entering the ocean this way creates an opportunity for implementing high-impact, cost-effective intervention strategies in affected rivers.


Addressing river plastic waste globally will require the deployment of diverse interventions, tailored to the equally diverse environments in which river plastic waste exists. The Benioff Ocean Initiative and The Coca-Cola Foundation are partnering to provide $3 million to an interdisciplinary team to design and deploy a pilot intervention strategy that both physically captures plastic waste in a river before it reaches the ocean, and catalyzes policy-based, infrastructural, and/or societal change to reduce plastic waste inputs to that river.


The Benioff Ocean Initiative invites interdisciplinary teams to submit proposals for pilot projects designed to achieve the following goals:

  • develop and deploy a physical plastic waste capture system in a chosen river anywhere in the world, and
  • leverage the plastic capture effort in a communications and outreach strategy that promotes the reduction of river plastic waste inputs.

A single organization (the funding recipient) will lead a team of communication specialists, engineers, environmental scientists, and a governmental advisor in the funded pilot project.

For more information on the project and proposal process, see the downloadable Request For Proposals (RFP). The RFP abstract is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and simplified Chinese. Proposals must be submitted in English by 12 July 2019 (6:00PM PDT) using the form linked below, and must also include a proposed budget using the downloadable budget template.

We will host a webinar at 9:00AM PDT on Wednesday, 29 May 2019 to answer questions from organizations interested in submitting a proposal. Register for the webinar here. A recording of the webinar will be made available after 29 May for those unable to attend.

Download the Request For Proposals

English- full RFP
español- resumen
tóm tắt bằng tiếng việt

Proposal submission form


White Paper

In November 2018, the Benioff Ocean Initiative convened a summit to develop a roadmap for cutting off the flow of plastic waste from rivers to the ocean. The conclusions of that summit were documented in a white paper that summarizes the state of science on river plastic waste emissions, highlights existing plastic capture strategies, and outlines a call to action for global efforts to eliminate river plastic waste.

Download the White Paper

This website or its third-party tools use cookies, which are necessary to its functioning and required to achieve the purposes illustrated in the cookie policy. If you want to know more or withdraw your consent to all or some of the cookies, please refer to the Cookie Policy. By closing this banner, scrolling this page, clicking a link or continuing to browse otherwise, you agree to the use of cookies.