Reducing Whale Strikes
Cutting River Plastic Waste

Cutting River 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.”

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.


In May 2019, the Benioff Ocean Initiative released a Request for Proposals inviting 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.

This proposal submission period had ended. We thank all teams who submitted proposals for addressing plastic waste in rivers. We are currently reviewing proposals and plan to announce the winning team in fall 2019.

Download the Request For Proposals

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

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

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