The Seabin Project: cleaning the oceans one bag at a time


In case you haven’t heard, the big buzz lately has been around The Seabin Project, an undertaking by Pete Ceglinski and his friend, Andrew Turton to clean up our oceans. Two Australian surfers, these two men looked at the pollution and garbage floating around the docks and marinas and knew someone had to do something. This was the start of their dream.

What is The Seabin?

The Seabin is called a “floating debris interception device” and can be installed in any calm water environment. It can capture 1.5 kg of floating debris daily or about a half ton of debris each year. When installed correctly, the Seabin uses the wind and water currents to bring the floating debris into the bag.

Each bag can hold up to 12 kg of debris and when working effectively, may need to be changed as often as twice per day. The Seabin can also absorb some oil using a simple absorption process. This process is constantly being improved and the hope is to increase the amount of debris, but also the amount of the oil the bin is able to capture.

The Seabin is powered by a small, submersible pump. The most effective pump today is electric and costs about $1.00 per day to operate, but the builders of the Seabin are hoping that as solar, wind, wave or turbine technologies improve and become available in needed locations, alternate power sources can be used.

The original collection bag was made of Hessian fibres, woven from the skin of jute or sisal plants, but it was quickly discovered that this bag would absorb too much water and swell closed which stopped the function of The Seabin. The company is now trying an HDPE ocean plastic bag with hopes for even better performance and exhibiting the benefits of recycling by using 25% of recovered plastics from the ocean as part of the bag composition.

The Seabin Project began as a dream for Ceglinski and Turton who came up with the concept and with help from a seed investor, created the prototype, then took it to market in Mallorca, Spain. Through crowdfunding, the pair quickly raised $50K and over 10 million hits online. It was obvious the need and the interest was there.

The project continues to attract investors and partners who support the project while the company expands its focus to further research and innovation as well as education about the problem and how to prevent the growing levels of pollution in our oceans and open waters.

Other Ocean Cleanup Projects

The Marina Trash Skimmer, created by Californian Louis Pazos works in a similar manner as a floating container fastened to the side of a dock with a pump that circulates water through its filter system trapping debris inside the container. According to this article, Pazos has installed 49 of his skimmers in California, Hawaii, Texas, and Oregon. The devices have removed over 1 million tons of debris to date.

In another project on the open ocean, The Ocean Cleanup Array is a fleet of huge ships out on the ocean focusing on specific areas where trash collects called gyres.  These floating trash patches are made up mostly of tiny, microplastics – small plastic pieces that gather in floating islands due to the water and wind currents.

These are pieces of plastic that are so small they are almost impossible to pick up but by trolling the ocean with their nets, they are slowly gathering some of these smallest pieces of trash. They may only gather half a cup of microplastics over a two-mile stretch, but they believe that every little bit helps.

The Big Problem of Ocean Plastic

The numbers surrounding this problem are staggering. It’s estimated that 4 to 12 million tons of plastic waste enters the earth’s oceans from land yearly. Only 15 percent of the pollution is actually visible on the ocean surface, with another 15 percent washing up on shore.

The remaining 70 percent either sinks to the ocean floor or stays just under the surface. The time required for one plastic bottle to decompose is 450 years. The process of decomposition is what leads to the tons of microplastics that float in those floating islands mentioned previously. Add to these, newer synthetic fabrics and microbeads contained in cosmetics and the problem reaches huge proportions with no end in sight.

We all need to pay attention to this problem and begin to do our part by reducing the amount of plastic we use and look for better ways to reuse plastics and reduce our dependence on them. When we learn about and support projects like The Seabin and others, we can begin to tackle the problem.

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