After finishing college, recent graduates often move to new cities, explore different career paths, start their own projects, or travel the world. But Sam Bencheghib has different plans: running.
The 22-year-old — who graduated from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, this spring — is embarking on a six-month journey that spans 3,100 miles in an effort to raise awareness about plastic pollution. Bencheghib plans to run from New York City’s Battery Park area to Santa Monica, California, stopping at city halls along the way where he will ask mayors to sign a no-plastic pledge, ABC News reported.
Bencheghib first noticed the world’s growing plastic problem when he moved from Paris to Bali, Indonesia, 10 years ago.
“We would kind of go to the beach every day and realize there’s trash everywhere,” he told ABC News. “We were paddling in trash. That’s where my passion for the oceans and my want to fight against plastic pollution really began.”
Indonesia’s plastic waste problem has been on the rise in recent years. A growing population has resulted in the use of more single-use plastics, and without proper waste management systems, the country’s plastic pollution has grown worse. Each of Indonesia’s 350 million residents is now responsible for more than two pounds of plastic waste per year, according to the Guardian.
Last year, waterways and canals in Bandung —Indonesia’s third largest city — were blocked by enormous amounts of plastic trash that had accumultaed and disrupted the flow of water. The situation was so dire that the military was called to step in and soldiers were deployed to help clear the trash. Despite government initiatives in recent years, stronger waste management policies have yet to yield significant results.
While Indonesia’s plastic waste problem has been ongoing for at least a decade, so has Bencheghib’s activism. Since he was 12, Bencheghib has been taking matters into his own hands by organizing local beach clean ups along with his brother, Gary Bencheghib, now 24. The two started sharing videos of their clean up expeditions on social media, and later founded Make a Change World, a media organization that promotes news centered on sustainability.
The pair’s most memorable effort took place in August 2017, when they sailed across the Citraum River in Indonesia — considered one of the world’s most polluted river — on boats they made out of plastic bottles.
The brothers posted a video of their stunt on Facebook, which quickly went viral and even garnered the attention of Indonesian President Joko Widodowho publicly promised to rid the river of all trash within seven years as a result.
“We really wanted to create a shocking visual of all this trash that’s coming in from our rivers into the ocean,” Gary said in the video. “We have to start from our rivers, because that is where we can still capture the waste before it gets out in the open sea.”
For his next awareness-raising endeavor, Sam plans to run 20 miles a day, six days a week, for six months. He also plans to conduct educational workshops at college campuses during his stop-overs on rest days.
According to a new report, the average American produces 1,704 pounds of garbage per year, roughly three times the global average. Most of that unmanaged trash ends up in the oceans — becoming a menace to marine animals and polluting the Earth’s waterways.
Sam, said he hopes his quest will help highlight just how devastating the effects of plastic are and inspire people across the United States to change their habits.
“In the time of such environmental concern, we need to talk about the solutions and innovations available to us instead of just using plastic,” he said.
Source: Global Citizen