PortsToronto tackles floating trash

PortsToronto tackles floating trash

Monday August 12, 2019

How often has your visit to Lake Ontario been marred by the sight of a floating water bottle or a plastic bag? Not only does this garbage spoil the view, it can also harm aquatic life. But at the Outer Harbour Marina, PortsToronto is fighting back with an innovative underwater garbage can.

The container is called a Seabin, and it can trap just about anything from the water’s surface—from large items to oil to microplastics. A pump pulls the contaminants into a bag that is emptied daily.

Seabins are still experimental, and PortsToronto is one of the first Canadian organizations to try them. They currently have three bins, each of which can collect about four kilograms of trash a day. That can add up to 90,000 plastic bags, 16,500 bottles, and 166,500 plastic utensils per year.

The staff at the  bullfrogpowered Outer Harbour Marina has already seen the benefits—instead of collecting debris manually, they simply empty the Seabins.

“The program has been in effect for about six weeks and the Seabins are making quite a difference at the Outer Harbour Marina as we are seeing less debris and waste in the water,” said Mike Dwyer, Manager of the Outer Harbour Marina. “We have found that one Seabin at the marina is typically collecting 4.4 pounds of waste per day, which is roughly 31 pounds of material per week that we previously would have had to try and capture manually.”

Seabins are making waves

Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski, two boat builders, surfers, and ocean lovers from Australia, teamed up in 2013 to create the Seabin. Pete had worked in product design before, but he had left the field because—as an avid surfer and diver—he disliked designing disposable plastic items like the ones he found in the water.

With help from a YouTube welding course and a 60-year-old sewing machine, Pete came up with a Seabin prototype. The founders set up an Indiegogo page and soon crowdfunded more than $350,000. There are now 719 Seabins in operation worldwide.

PortsToronto is on the front lines of lake cleanup

The Seabin’s creators think that marinas like the Outer Harbour Marina are the ideal place to start cleaning our waterways. Firstly, they’re controlled environments that are sheltered from storms and ocean swells, so there’s little risk to installing Seabins there.

Currents and winds bring trash into the marinas, where it often collects in the same problem areas. Seabins can be installed there to maximise their efficiency. Instead of having marina staff chase the floating waste, the trash drifts right up to the Seabin.

The PortsToronto team is keen to find out how successful their pilot project will be—and how much progress they’ll be able to make with Seabins.

“PortsToronto is working together with our partners at the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and the University of Toronto on developing a comprehensive 5-year strategy with all waterfront partners with the aim of one day seeing a harbour that is free of plastics and micro plastics,” said Christopher Sawicki, Vice President of Infrastructure, Planning, and Development at PortsToronto. “Our short-term plans include, first and foremost, determining the success of our Seabins pilot project at the Outer Harbour Marina, and then potentially looking at installing more Seabins in the Toronto Harbour.”