“SeaBin” project launched in Singapore to collect rubbish from water surface

A pilot project, “Seabin” was officially launched on Tuesday (10 April) with about 2 kilograms of rubbish collected within 24 hours along the west coast near the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club (RSYC) though there seems not to be a severe little problem in the area.

Plastic bottles, aluminum drink cans, and empty instant noodle cups were some of the rubbish collected on Monday in its pilot run, a day before the launch.

The program is the first in Asia, with about 30 others in six locations including England, Finland, France, Spain and the United States. According to the media, about half a tonne of debris can be collected by each Seabin a year.

According to the rear commodore of the RSYC, Mr Albert Fong, the bin is helpful when manpower is tight for the yacht club. He stated that the low-maintenance device takes about two days before it is filled up and emptied at the club and can operate unmanned. Therefore, it is perfect for over the weekends, when there is less manpower.

He stated that before the product was invented, staff members in charge of housekeeping, one on land and two deck hands, survey and pick up trash washed into the marina daily.

The Seabin is the brainchild of Pete Ceglinski, a 40-year-old Australian. According to Everipedia, to use the Seabin, it is situated at the waters surface and is plumbed into a shore based water pump on the dock. The water gets sucked into the Seabin bringing all floating debris and floating liquids into the Seabin.

It catches all the floating debris inside the Seabin and the water then flows out through the bottom of the bin and up into the pump on the dock.

The water then flows through the pump where it has the option of installing an oil/water separator and clean water then flows back into the ocean. This process is constant, operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Inside the Seabin, it has a natural fiber “catch bag” which collects all the floating debris. When this is full or near to full, the marina worker simply changes the catch bag with another one. The collected debris is then disposed of responsibly, the catch bag cleaned and now it is ready to swap again for the full one in the still operating Seabin.

The Seabin can catch an estimated 1.5 kilograms of floating debris per day (depending on weather and debris volumes) including microplastics up to 2 mm small.

If fishes or sea creatures are caught, they would remain in the water within the bin, until they are tossed back into the water when a worker cleans the filter bag.

Under calm water conditions, a Seabin can take in trash within a range of 1m to 10m, but its efficiency is heavily dependent on wind and water conditions.

While the Seabin cannot singlehandedly solve the massive problem of marine trash and plastics, Mr Ceglinski hopes to make some small impact in protecting the marine environment, saying that his project is also a way to educate people about this ecological issue.

The first Seabin was commercially installed in Portsmouth, England. More than 5,000 orders are expected to be fulfilled in the next two years as the project expands, and the target is to collect up to 70,000 tonnes of debris.

In foreign countries, the most commonly caught items include cigarette butts, plastic particles and food wrappers. However, here in Singapore, Mr Ceglinski was surprised to find that there were “so many plastic nurdles”, which are resin pellets used to make products such as pens.

Mr Ceglinski and his best friend, Andrew Turton, spent most of their childhood in the ocean. However, they became really frustrated at the amount of rubbish floating around. Therefore, they quit their jobs to try to find a sustainable solution.

The duo then came up with an automated rubbish bin for marina docks that many hope could help reduce ocean pollution. They then called it Seabin.

They then designed a prototype of the bin in Perth with the help of WA seed investors Shark Mitigation Systems. Then they took it to market in Mallorca in Spain, a marina capital of Europe.

In 2015, the duo tried to raise enough capital to turn the prototype into a reality.

To their surprise, crowdfunding raising saw $50,000 for commercial production, and a video of the Seabin attracting more than 10 million hits online.