Experts agree, ocean pollution is a problem that is easy to recognize, but hard to solve.
Innovative ideas vary in viability and scope. While some companies focus on enormous devices, like Ocean Cleanup’s System 001, other organizations are experimenting with small-scale solutions.
Australia’s Seabin Group offers a compact cleaning mechanism, a cylinder whose diameter measures only 22 inches. The Seabin is designed to trap seaborne items in its underwater catch bag, a tightly woven mesh built to hold 44 pounds of material.
“Our product is basically a floating trash bin,” Seabin CEO and co-founder Pete Ceglinski explained. “Regular trash bins work well on land, so we decided to try them in the water.”
Ceglinski and his partner Andrew Turton launched this idea in 2016 with a crowd funding campaign. Having built and installed devices in 40 countries, they are currently conducting a series of trials in California’s coastal cities. Last week, Ceglinski asked Long Beach’s Captain Charles Moore to evaluate the product and its performance capabilities.
Moore, who founded the Algalita Marine Research Foundation and discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, agreed to have a Seabin mounted on his dock in Alamitos Bay. For several days, the Algalita team monitored the device, removing and examining the items it collected.
Without question, the underwater trash bin gathers a great deal of debris; over the course of a year, one Seabin captures approximately 1.4 tons of floating matter. However, not everything that drifts on the water’s surface is actually garbage. Unfortunately, the device is unable to distinguish between organic and inorganic material. As a result, the Algalita team found eelgrass, kelp, and a range of small organisms in the Seabin’s catch bag, along with plastic and other man-made waste.
Bycatch, the accidental capture of marine creatures, is a common but unwanted occurrence in the fishing world; it is equally troubling in the ocean clean-up arena. Floating plants and algae are important to the aquatic ecosystem because they provide food and shelter for marine life and oxygen for the Earth. Sea organisms often attach themselves to surface matter.
Katie Allen, Algalita executive director, compared the Seabin to a human antibiotic because the device addresses the pollution problem by indiscriminately attacking both good and bad elements in the water.
“It’s a very complex situation,” Allen said. “I love how experimental the Seabin is and it works like a champ. But I would like to hear from a local marine biologist about the pros and cons of removing these plants and organisms.”
Moore described the issue as thorny, but he praised the company’s creativity and its willingness to publicly test its product. He noted the Seabin’s success at removing chemical slicks and said that he would put two devices at every gas dock, specifically for this purpose.
Having recently examined debris accumulation on the bottom of the Cerritos Channel, near Loynes and Studebaker, Moore also stressed the continuing need to educate people and change the habits that create pollution. Ceglinski agreed and said the Seabin Group regularly works with schoolchildren to raise awareness and inspire change.
“We have to stop the problem at its source,” Ceglinski added.
To learn more about the Seabin, go to www.seabinproject.com.