Oily residue on the surface of water in the Port Macquarie Marina is drawn into the Seabin and absorbed by a special pad. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)
Eight million tonnes — that’s the oft-quoted figure for the amount of plastic rubbish that enters the world’s oceans each year.
- The Seabin is a “rubbish bin in the water” removing plastic waste and other rubbish
- The first 60 are being installed in Australia in the coming weeks
- About 600 are in operation overseas removing about 1.7 tonnes of marine litter a day
An Australian invention known as a Seabin is doing something about it.
The first Seabins were installed in the south of France and there are now hundreds in overseas marinas and rivers — including some very illustrious locations.
“We’ve been installing them in quite a lot of places, the majority of our clients are marinas, ports and yacht clubs,” CEO and co-founder of the Seabin Project, Pete Ceglinski said.
“We’ve also been installing them in rivers, like the River Seine in Paris, in Dubai we’ve installed them on the backs of super yachts and also freshwater lakes and rivers, so quite a lot of different places,”
Until recently he was based in Europe working on what he described as the “rubbish bin in the water”.
What is a Seabin?
- Described as a rubbish bin for the ocean, they’re most often installed in marinas
- Installation location is based on where winds and currents naturally push rubbish
- A submersible pump at the bottom of the unit draws in water
- Water is passed through a filter which catches rubbish as small as two millimetres, and oil and fuel
- Filtered water is pushed out the bottom
Now he’s bringing it home, after moving back to Byron Bay to start a family.
“That kind of fast-tracked the Australian and Pacific market entry but it was the perfect timing,” Mr Ceglinski said.
“We now have 60 units, I think we have about 20 left so there’s 40 going in in the next month and a half, it’s very early stages.”
Two Seabins have been in Australia before now, leapfrogging their way across the country to demonstrate the operation.
It is hoped 2,000 Seabin units will be installed by the end of the year.
Addressing marine litter
Seabin Project CEO Pete Ceglinski, Meegan Stephens from Coastal Warriors, Nicky Julian from Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and Port Macquarie Marina manager Alec Mulvey with one of two Seabins installed at the marina. (Supplied: Coastal Warriors)
As part of the first run of 60 Seabins being installed in Australian waters, two in Port Macquarie Marina mark a couple of important firsts.
They are not only the first to be installed in regional Australia, but one is the first paid for with government money, from a NSW Environment Protection Authority Waste Less, Recycle More grant.
Coastal Warriors, a group of volunteers who run beach clean-ups and education initiatives, fundraised and sought sponsorship for the other one.
Mr Ceglinski said it was great to see government addressing the floating litter problem.
“That’s a huge thing for us because when you have marine litter you can’t really put a finger on where it came from or who’s to blame for that,” Mr Ceglinski said.
“It’s kind of this no man’s land, so it’s pretty amazing to see the NSW EPA can foresee this and put out these litter grants that can be used to address the marine litter.”
Nicky Julian, who is waste projects officer for Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, said the EPA was “great in supporting this initiative, they let us vary that grant to include the Seabin as part of that existing grant”.
The Seabins are fitted with a specialised pad to absorb oil, fuel and other pollutants. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)
“Obviously we’re pro-waste avoidance and not littering in the first place, but it’s good to have this as a bit of a catch for those things that do get past our bins.”
EPA executive director Waste and Resource Recovery, Operations and Programs, Carmen Dwyer, said the Seabin was a great example of the kind of projects the EPA supported through grants, to reduce the volume of litter in NSW by 40 per cent by the year 2020.
“Port Macquarie Council’s use of the Seabin is an effective use of a new technology, and we expect that all the intervention programs will not only reduce litter, but help people stop and think twice about what they do with their own rubbish,” Ms Dwyer said.
Promoting preventative action
Pete Ceglinski from Seabin Project installing one of the two Seabins at Port Macquarie Marina. (ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)
Mr Ceglinski was quick to point out the Seabin was a reactive and not a preventative solution.
But it was having an impact and the information gathered from the rubbish was being put to good use, he said.
“Every day we’re getting 1.7 tonnes of marine litter out of the water with 600 Seabins,” Mr Ceglinski said.
“The average is about four kilograms a day, some locations it might be 100 kilograms or 50 kilograms, other locations it might be none — it just depends on the wind, the weather, and the amount of debris on the streets surrounding the water bodies.”
In many areas, rubbish is analysed and data collated, and in Port Macquarie that job has fallen to the Coastal Warriors.
“This is the part that excites me, I’m really into the data collection and research side of this worldwide issue that we’re facing,” spokeswoman Meegan Stephens said.
“I’ll enter it into the Tangaroa Blue website collection, which is a nationwide data collection point and then I’ll also liaise with Seabin, so they know what’s being picked up in our specific area.
“It gives us a lot of info into what our problem areas are, what we can focus on and also how we can try to manage the waste better in our community.”
Analysis of the rubbish collected by the Seabins so far across the world shows microplastics make up the majority of what’s collected, followed by cigarette butts and food wrappers.
“If we can stop the plastics from actually getting into the water in the first place you wouldn’t have a need for Seabins,” Mr Ceglinski said.
“Unfortunately, it’s not the case.”