We are targeting the most polluted rivers in the world


DESMI is taking on new, smarter solutions to put a stop to ocean pollution.

The seas of the world are choking on plastic. A staggering eight million metric tons wind up in oceans every year. A recent study estimates that about 90 percent of the total plastic debris entering the oceans from across the world come from the 10 most polluting rivers. Rivers carry trash over long distances and connect land surfaces with the oceans, making them a critical factor in combatting sea pollution.

For DESMI, a company with more than 40 years of experience in oil spill response, this presents a new opportunity, explains Neha Mehta, head of the company’s new EnviRo-Clean division:

“With our years of experience in mitigating oil spills, we often received feedback from our customers that they also remove other surface debris while removing oil from the water surface, thus making the water pollution free,” she explains.

“We have experience from the oceans and the seas, even from fast moving waters such as rivers. Instead of just cleaning the oceans, we want to prevent the problem reaching the oceans. Therefore, we are moving closer to the source. In the most literal sense of the word, we want to go upstream.”

Photo: DESMI


Taking on this challenge, however, requires considerable modifications to existing equipment, says Neha Mehta: 

“Firstly, the equipment has to be adjusted to target waste collection rather than oil spill. Secondly, the protection of the local marine life is equally important. We are potentially moving heavy equipment into fragile ecosystems, so we have to be very, very careful. Most of our new designs are based on lighter versions which are easy to handle and are capable of withstanding various weather conditions.”

DESMI has had many conversations with government officials around the world, and a pilot project is setting up in India. Here, the company is not only focused on cleaning the rivers, but also on looking into how a circular economy approach can be achieved through a complete water waste management chain.

Being part of the SDG Accelerator for SMEs has helped DESMI analyse various business potentials, as well as how to make the company’s vision more reachable in the future.

“The thing we love about this project is that we are taking environmental clean-up to the next level,” says Neha Mehta.

“It makes very little sense to clean a river and move the pollution to somewhere else. What we want to do instead is to actually process the waste on site to generate energy, using known and proven technology while creating local jobs. This allows us to bring a complete waste management value proposition to countries or regions who have this challenge. For both the rivers and the oceans, the result could have a major effect.”

For Neha Mehta and the DESMI team, it is still too early in the process to set up tangible commercial goals, but the company is optimistic that the pilot project can be replicated and commercialised, which also lies at the very heart of the Sustainable Development Goals:

“What we realised is that most countries have already incorporated the SDGs into their national development plans. Coming from the outside, this makes the conversation so much easier. Having the support and the encouragement from our UNDP partners also facilitates trust and cooperation and helps us build new relationships to some of the key government stakeholders.”

How will the clean-up of polluted rivers look in five years from now? Neha Mehta predicts that the solutions from DESMI will be a game changer in the industry:

“We are working on an innovative, module-based solution where you actually just open the container and are ready to go. This, in itself, is a major shift from traditional equipment that usually requires considerable time for installation. With a short time for setup and decommissioning, the cost is potentially very low whilst the impact is huge. That is the promise we are working hard to deliver on.”

Read more about DESMI here.

SDG 14.1

DESMI aims to reduce marine pollution, for the benefit of life below water.

By 2025

DESMI aims to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities.


DESMI is developing equipment that can clean the world’s most polluted rivers, thereby stopping plastic waste from flowing into the oceans.


Besides cleaning the rivers, DESMI is planning to introduce a new waste management system to process any waste on site.

Founded 1834

DESMI was founded in 1834, and now has global geographical presence.


The DESMI EnviRo-Clean division is rather new, utilizing DESMI's resources to expand globally.