Environment

The Science Behind the Seabin: The Ocean’s First Trash Collector

The Seabin operates with its mouth sitting at water level, while the pump, catch bag and filter all sit below the surface. The pump pulls water in from around the Seabin, bringing it across an outer lip and into the collector itself.

Our planet operates according to very ancient cycles, and it’s true that we can, have and continue to disrupt those cycles. But with some changes to the way we produce and consume, humankind could continue to settle the farthest corners of the world without endangering the biodiversity, the stability and the long-term health of our one and only home.

 Marine debris, also called marine trash. [via - Shutterstock]
Marine debris, also called marine trash. [via – Shutterstock]

The way that we manufacture, package, ship and consume products has changed in recent history. One of the areas hit hardest by our destructive habits is the oceans. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, our planet’s oceans are filled with billions of pounds of pollution every year. If the number were only 1 billion, it would mean that, every day, over 2.7 million pounds of pollutants are entering our oceans. For reference, that’s the equivalent of throwing more than 440 2019 Ford F-150 pickup trucks into the ocean on a daily basis.

So how do we combat this massive problem? Step one would be to stop polluting the oceans. However, even if it were possible to immediately stop all contaminants from entering the ocean, it would still leave billions of pounds of garbage and plastic in the water.

The Seabin Project may be the answer to this problem. While it’s still a relatively new tool, the Seabin has already been making waves. Through innovative design, the machine is able to suck plastic, oil and other contaminants from the ocean.

What Is the Seabin?

The Seabin is a device most commonly used in marinas and on docks with the goal of cleaning up the ocean water. It pulls water in from its surroundings, along with the accompanying trash, debris and pollutants. The Seabin then filters the water and garbage through a catch bag and filter. The water is later pumped back into the ocean while the pollutants remain behind in the device. Seabins, when placed in an ideal location, can rid the ocean of 1,000 pounds of pollution per year.

Compatibility With Marine Life

One concern that some environmentalists may have with the Seabin is its compatibility with marine life. However, the device was designed with performance and the safety of fish and other marine life in mind.

Seabin in Operation
Seabin in Operation

Marina owners who have already utilized the Seabin have not had any problems with the device catching or harming fish. Some of these marinas have had Seabin prototypes operating in them for years without incident. While this good news is certainly due in part to fish behavior and their natural desire to stay away from the pump, it can also be attributed to the Seabin’s design.

The Seabin operates with its mouth sitting at water level, while the pump, catch bag and filter all sit below the surface. The pump pulls water in from around the Seabin, bringing it across an outer lip and into the collector itself. This process forms a sort of skimming effect — the surface of the water is being pulled in. Such a design keeps passing fish from being inadvertently pulled into the catch basket.

Why Marinas?

Seabins have been popping up across the globe, effectively pulling pollutants out of the water of marinas worldwide. Considering that oceans cover the majority of the planet’s surface, you may be wondering why the Seabin Project has primarily been focused on marinas.

Marinas are an ideal location for Seabins for a number of reasons. With their numerous docks, marinas make placing and accessing the Seabins simple and straightforward. Additionally, the water in marinas is typically calm. Users don’t have to worry about the surf messing up their bins. With how aggressive and fluctuant the weather and water of the oceans can be, marinas offer one of the only true “control” or base points for the Seabin.

These devices are exceptional at collecting debris, and as a result, they need to be regularly emptied. Marinas receive ample foot traffic, and having the bins here makes them that much easier to be taken care of. It’s also a chance to show the public the type and amount of trash that’s finding its way into the surrounding ocean waters.

Seabin Plastic Selection
Seabin Plastic Selection

Another factor that makes these marinas ideal for the Seabin is the amount of debris often found there. Pollutants funnel into marinas both from the open ocean and from the mainland. These areas serve as a sort of meeting point for the two sources. Once pollutants are inside the marina, they often build up there. Because the water is calm, pockets of oil, trash and plastic can accumulate. Seabins are a clever answer to this problem that affects marinas worldwide.

The Future

The Seabin project is growing, and so are its associated goals. While the project still focuses primarily on marinas, there are goals of bringing adapted versions into the open ocean. This step could be a significant start to combatting the mountains of plastic that exist in our oceans. In a world that’s dumping billions of pounds of plastic and other pollutants into the ocean, Seabin is taking a step forward to start undoing the damage we’ve done.

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