The ocean may be “big,” and “blue,” but it is also, unfortunately, full of garbage. It has been estimated that there are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world’s oceans and 10,000 times more in the deep sea. Plastic and fibers have been found in a quarter of fish sold in markets in the US and Indonesia. Abandoned fishing gear often still traps and kills fish and sea mammals. Yet, the oceans offer countless essential resources: A recent World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report estimated that the oceans represent an “economy” worth $24 trillion – certainly a resource worth protecting for the sake of the global economy.
Luckily, it seems new efforts aimed at cleaning them up emerge daily. This year, The Ocean Cleanup (TOC) program will passively collect plastic debris between Japan and South Korea, using a method reportedly 7,900 times faster and at just 3 percent of the cost of previous methods. If it operated in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – the world’s largest single collection of trash, estimated to be twice the size of Texas – for 10 years, it could remove 42 percent of the Patch’s trash at a cost of around $5 a kilo. TOC is a great step forward, but it cannot single-handedly solve our ocean trash problem.
Smaller-scale approaches may be necessary in highly populated areas, where a conveyor belt system may be impractical or undesirable. Pollution collects in environments such as marinas, ports and yacht clubs, where there are hard-to-reach areas and a lot of activity. Frustrated with this, Australian boat builder, sailor and surfer Andrew Turton conceived the Seabin concept. He partnered with fellow Australian and surfer Pete Ceglinski, an industrial designer in the yachting industry, to co-found Seabin Pty Ltd and tackle the problem.
Turton and Ceglinski created a prototype that can remove floating debris, oil, fuel and detergents from the water, even in hard to reach places. The Seabin is destined to be installed on a floating dock – whether in a marina, an inland waterway, a residential lake, a harbour, a port, a yacht club, or on a private pontoon – and is plumbed into a shore-based water pump. Its rim sits evenly with the surface of the water, and the pump brings water into the bin. A natural fiber catch bag catches the floating debris before the water is sucked out of the bottom of the bin and up to the water pump, where it is pumped back into the marina. An oil/water separator can be included in the system for additional filtration.
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Garbage is currently being collected by costly “trash boats,” which scoop up debris with built-in nets by driving around harbors and marinas. Workers often walk around to collect trash that converges in corners. Turton and Ceglinski were told that the boats and workers were not effective and simply can not keep up with the pollution. If widely distributed, the Seabin could offer a viable, lower-cost solution.