Clean River Model

Clean River Model

We are on a mission to clean rivers by empowering people, preventing pollution, and accelerating change! Our approach, better known as our Clean River Model, is made up of 3 pillars and 2 enablers. Together, they take on the entire lifecycle of river plastics. The actions vary from virgin plastic use reduction to circular economy solutions, preventing new plastic pollution and cleaning up legacy pollution.


It’s a model with maximum impact that's highly scalable and open-source. Our interventions combine technology and human behavior change. We are not reinventing the wheel but bring together and build upon existing initiatives. Our approach is unique: the first hands-on, science- and evidence-based approach focused on rivers, aimed for global roll-out. The model can be tailored to specific needs and circumstances to reach maximum effectiveness.  

Empower people

Local awareness campaigns generate enthusiasm and make people see the problem so they can change their behavior and become part of the solution. Through educational programs, students and teachers are activated to become ambassadors within their families and communities. Local leaders are empowered to take ownership and anchor the change within their communities.

Prevent pollution

We reduce single-use plastics by promoting sustainable alternatives, implementing plastic reduction projects, and sharing knowledge & best practices. The deployment of accessible collection systems (for example EcoBins) prevents plastic waste from entering nature. Riverine pollution is removed with cleanup actions and technologies like trash barriers, and the recovered materials are repurposed. We choose and promote circular economy solutions.

Accelerate change

We generate data, provide insights, and inform authorities on sources of river pollution. Next, we propose short-term remediations, promote structural solutions, and advocate policy change. Our teams clarify and monitor compliance with relevant regulation, e.g., UN Global Plastic Treaty, and actively engage and collaborate within a network of like-minded organizations, both non-profit and for-profit.


We prioritize intervention areas based on potential impact, feasibility and viability. A solid understanding of the problem, including root causes, river parameters, ecosystem services, current interventions, and stakeholder analysis, is key to design and implement a river-specific action plan. The plan features early plastic lifecycle interventions aimed at empowering people, preventing pollution, and accelerating change. This forms the baseline for continuous monitoring and impact evaluation. 




Continuous impact evaluation ensures that our activities stay on track to deliver the desired results. We actively measure, benchmark, and monitor KPIs contributing to plastic-free rivers e.g., plastic usage in communities, plastic leakage in rivers, environmental stewardship by individuals, authorities and corporations. We ensure transparency & traceability by standardizing all quantitative & qualitative measurement methods. The progress is visualized in a Global Plastic Pollution Dashboard, and the indicators are translated into information to initiate & improve actions to accelerate change.



We will be testing and validating the Clean River Model from 2023 to 2025 along 3 rivers in Belgium, Indonesia and Cameroon. From 2026 on, we will be supporting the roll-out of the model along 100 rivers, and we will make 1 000 rivers plastic-free by 2050. 


You can support our mission in multiple ways!

The Source

We're gathering a select group of visionary and bold philanthropists to work with us to validate and scale the Clean River Model as an open-source holistic solution to make and keep rivers plastic-free. 


Donate now

With your donation, we can keep and make rivers plastic-free in Belgium, Cameroon and Indonesia. Once the Clean River Model is validated, we can scale to 1 000 plastic-free rivers by 2050. Donate and become part of positive change.


Take action with your company

Looking for a way to engage your employees in positive change? Do you want to involve your company in making our planet a healthier place? Let's join forces for plastic-free rivers!

Supporting River Cleanup in its global ambition to clean
rivers and make them plastic-free is a no-brainer for me
personally. Why? Clean water is the most essential
resource to any form of life on our planet. River Cleanup’s
integrated approach is key for me: the combination of
effectively cleaning of rivers, educating a new generation of consumers and entrepreneurs, and initiating transformative processes in the (re)use of plastics. You can make a difference: join me and River Cleanup on our journey to make 1 000 rivers on our planet plastic-free.



- Wim Warnier, Chairman