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How these Aussie surfers are leading the way in solving ocean plastic issues

With ocean plastic one of the leading environmental crises of the 21st century, a pair of Australian surfers are set to launch their contribution to the solution, with a product designed to filter ocean debris and plastic in marinas.

The Seabin is a floating filtration device that’s designed to be installed on docks, with both large and small plastics collected from surface water and secured within the device.

Seabin Project CEO and Founder Pete Ceglinski said that while the project has come a long way since it was first conceived, the product is being distributed worldwide this year.

“The motivation for this project is pretty straight forward. We all grew up on the coast of eastern Australia and have learned to appreciate the water,” Ceglinski said.

“I haven't lived in Australia for the past 12 years, I’ve been all around the world and have seen so much floating pollution everywhere. The motivation to do this is so we can all surf and swim and sail in pristine water, to have water that’s not filled with pollution.”

Ceglinski said the journey has been a whirlwind from prototype to production, but that the initial Seabin design has come a very long way and is now capable of doing more than originally planned.

“We started off with a prototype and the video for our crowdfunding campaign. We spent the last year and a half further developing the Seabin for commercial production. We have simplified it a lot, we are down to three main components,” he said.

“We are starting to introduce recycled ocean plastics and fishing nets into the production of the Seabins themselves. The filter we use has been refined; we are catching big items, the size of 5L bottles, down to microplastics 2mm in size, plastic pellets, nurdles [plastic resin pellets] and polystyrene balls.

“We also introduced oil pad filters, so now we are also catching the surface oil in marinas.”

There is the potential that future models of the Seabin will be capable of filtering microfibres but further research is required before this goal is reached, Ceglinski said.

“We have done testing and have discovered that we will also be able to catch microfibres. There is a bit of a dilemma there though, as catching microfibres means also catching micro organisms. We are trying to figure that out now; we are looking at different avenues with help from scientists to assess some solutions,” he said.

And while the Seabin may not be the answer to all ocean pollution problems, the project is also establishing a foundation to run public awareness campaigns in the hope to pass on some of their hard-won expertise.

“We always acknowledged that technology is not the solution, that the Seabin is not going to save the world. Unless we stop putting the debris into the oceans, we are never going to stop the problem,” Ceglinski said.

“We are currently putting 50% of our business to non-profit activities; we have an education, science and research program, and community events. We have data collection in about 12 countries around the world, monitoring our impact and the water quality.

“We have built a passionate and active community too, through social media.”

The Seabin launch in Australia is set for April, with two Seabins arriving for installation and public demonstration. Seabin Project is now in discussion with the City of Melbourne.

At the same time, the Seabins will start distribution around the UK and Europe, and more will be installed in Australia and in the US in May.

Ceglinski said the project has given him the opportunity to flex all of his interests and passions “in the right way” and hopes to inspire change.

“I used to be a product designer and I designed plastic-injected molded products. I quit that and have been boat building ever since, but that work is still about building toys for rich people. I’d never really done anything for the environment or for others, I hadn’t done anything positive,” he said.

“When this project came around, it was a light bulb moment – I could use my product design and engineering skills, I could use my boat building skills for the prototypes, we could help the environment and feel good about making a measurable impact. It’s such a fulfilling thing to do and our future generations can also enjoy cleaner oceans.”