It all started with a surfer dude in Queensland, Australia, fed up with plastics floating through his waves. Pete Ceglinzki was tired of having to dodge plastic bags and floating bottles every time they went out surfing. So Ceglinzki and a boatbuilding friend, Andrew “Turtle” Turton, came up with a solution to help trap waste 24/7. “If we can have rubbish bins on land then why not have them in the water,” thought Turton.
The Seabin is a floating trashbin that collects up to 8.5 lbs. of trash per day, or since it runs nonstop, about 1.4 tons per year. It can trap bottles, bags, food wraps, cigarette butts and micro-plastics.
The project was just a pipe dream at first but turned into reality after the surfers set up a crowdfunding campaign. Sea lovers around the world contributed $250,000 to making the prototype.
“They went to Metstrade in 2014 and connected with Poralu Marine,” says Gautier Peers, sales manager of W Products and Solutions, which distributes the Seabin in North and South America. After Metstrade, Poralu Marine acquired the brand and launched production of the Seabin.
“Passive water pollution is very much alive in the U.S.,” says Peers. “We are targeting marinas, of course, but we’re also talking to municipalities and coastal communities since you can have a Seabin anywhere near a dock.”
The 121-lb. Seabin is designed on floating pontoons, capable of catching 44 lbs. of trash. It’s designed to be in a maximum current of 4 knots. Seabin says its collective units have caught more than 255,000 lbs. of trash over the last four years, or about 4,500 lbs. per day.
So far, the company has sold about 750 units, which retail for about $5,600, mostly in Europe. The goal is to triple that number by 2021. Peers says that the company has just started outreach in the U.S., primarily because it took some time to modify the unit to U.S. standards.
The company has attracted some heavyweight sponsors, including Safe Harbor marinas, and Ceglinzki and Tarton have set up the Seabin Foundation that uses educational outreach to talk to young students about ocean pollution. They meet with dozens of schools each month.
“The real solution to ocean pollution is not technology,” says Ceglinzki. “Education is the key driver. Plastic does not belong in our oceans. If plastic lasts forever and is reusable, then we should probably start reusing it a bit more you would think.”
Peers also points out that Seabin only addresses the plastics problem near the water’s surface.
“Much of the trash is in deep water, and there are big trash patches in the ocean,” he says. “We need to have different solutions.”
Then there’s the educational role. “Many of our customers invite schools and volunteers to their marinas to learn about water pollution and help pick up the trash,” says Peers.
The company has produced an annual global impact report that tallies the items collected and hours logged. In 2018, it said that 70,040 items were catalogued—most ocean trash are plastic bags—and the data took 13,300 hours to process.
Peers’ mission is to spread Seabin across the U.S., and not only along the coast. “Anywhere there is water pollution and docks we want to be,” he says. “We already have units installed on Lake Ontario, but it could certainly work in inland waterways like Lake Okeechobee or other polluted lakes and rivers. After all, we’re all looking for the same thing. If the water’s too dirty, who wants to boat?”