Cleaning the Oceans is Everyone’s Problem:
Pete Ceglinski, How He Got Started with the Seabin Project, and His Tour
As an Aussie surfer who raced and built yachts for twelve years before coming a dad, Pete Ceglinski was no stranger to the worldwide problem of ocean pollution. He recalls paddling on his surfboard in the Mediterranean and bringing up handfuls of trash with each stroke. Always daydreaming about what could be done to the problem, Ceglinski was overjoyed when inventor Andrew Turton approached him seven years ago with the idea of a Seabin, essentially a trash can for the ocean. When asked how he overcame the concerns and unknowns concomitant to joining the project, Ceglinski answered that while he had his doubts and fears when acquiring the space for the project and beginning to form seabin prototypes in Palma Mallorca, Spain, he knew he had nothing to lose. A faith that the seabins could solve the problem of pollution that was occurring everywhere drove Ceglinski forward as he hand-stitched the seabin filters with the help of YouTube tutorials, which, during our interview, he cited as an initial challenge he had to overcome. Soon, he said, the first prototype was crafted out of duct tape.
The next challenge was acquiring enough funding for the project to be feasible. Without a business or shareholders but determined to make their dreams a reality, Turton and Ceglinski were able to launch a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 that yielded $360,000 for the next year. The project continued to prosper as cleaning the oceans had become a hot media topic. A perfectly timed video of the seabin in action went viral, propelling their invention to the public sphere. On June 10th, of 2019, Ceglinski and his family embarked from San Diego on a journey set to span June and July to install seabins and educate communities up the coast. In their Jeep packed with surfboards, Ceglinski, his wife, and their 1-year old son will make stops at Marina Del Rey, Ventura Isle Marina, and San Francisco’s Emeryville Marina for a total of five weeks before heading to Oahu’s Aloi Marina, an important stop as Ceglinski comments that the world’s trash accumulates in Hawaiian harbors. There, Ceglinski will install Hawaii’s first three seabins. Ceglinski’s work with this innovative technology is his full-time job, as he now serves as the CEO and Co-founder of the Seabin Project. Overall, Ceglinski’s story is proof that anyone with an idea, willingness to learn, and courage to take risks can make their dreams come to pass.
Seabin Project: Structure, What They’re Made of, How They Work
A manageable size, the seabin is made of premium, eco-friendly materials that resist corrosion. A non-toxic coating prevents barnacles from attaching themselves to the bin, which is designed in such a way that it will not accidentally trap fish. Seabins are not designed to float in the open ocean. Rather, they are strategically placed in corners of marinas and harbors where wind currents cause an accumulation of trash. A white oil pad can be purchased from the seabin French manufacturer Poralu Marine or even Home Depot and collects surface oil. It attaches easily to a floating dock (although it is possible to attach to a non-floating dock), where it is plugged in (or solar power can be used) and costs just $1 per day to operate. A water pump at the bottom of the bin sucks trash toward it, where it is collected in a filter bag that only needs to be checked 2 times a day and replaced every 2 days. The filter replacement process takes a mere five minutes. This saves a lot of time that marina employees would have to spend painstakingly collecting the trash with long nets. Overall, one seabin collects about eight pounds of rubbish daily.
Worldwide Impact, Role in San Diego
Today, 720 Seabins exist worldwide in over 40 countries, collectively removing 2.2 tons of waste from the planet’s waters daily. The very first seabin to be installed in the US about three years ago is home to the Cabrillo Isle Marina right here in San Diego. The installation of seabins in the US was an important market entry milestone as electrical certifications were more difficult to obtain in the US than in Europe. About 10-12 units exist in California marinas, and another 50 throughout the US. Ceglinski’s tour will up the number of US Seabins to 66, extracting an additional 90 tons of garbage from our oceans per year. Safe Harbor Marinas, the biggest marina owner-operator in the world, has been incredibly supportive of the installation of seabins at Cabrillo Isle Marina and beyond. They are part of the Global Pilot Program joining the Seabin Project in its fight against ocean pollution and were the first marina company in North America to install the Seabin technology.
Debbie Davis, manager of Cabrillo Isle Marina, also approves of the seabin innovation. Regarding the installation of Seabins at Cabrillo Isle and their immediate effects, Davis comments, “you can see entire ecosystems revealed overnight!” Because of the visible, immediate benefits of the Seabin, talk of making the installation of Seabins a mandatory part of port rent is ensuing at the Port of San Diego. Although the Seabin catches a variety of items like 90,000 shopping bags or 50,000 water bottles per year, perhaps the most important thing the Seabin catches is microplastics down to 2mm in size. Since plastics are not biodegradable, they just continue to break down into tiny pieces that will never disappear, which fish then eat. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, human consumption of microplastics through fish meat is a growing concern. Thus, the Seabins’ ability to catch microplastics is incredibly beneficial for not only the health of the ocean, but for our own health as well. However, the benefits of the Seabin are not limited to our oceans. They are also installed in rivers and lakes, including Lake Geneva in the Swiss Alps.
Education and Prevention
Despite the huge benefits of the Seabin, Ceglinski believes that the real solution to ocean pollution is education. During his travels, he uses a combination of reactive and preventative approaches as he strives to engage with every community he visits with Seabin demos and events. Since Ceglinski has dubbed ocean pollution as “everyone’s problem,” he uses STEM projects that bring the ocean to inland communities, so they can understand how their behaviors affect our waters as well. Carried out by Seabin Project pilot partners like Safe Harbors Marinas, The Global Ambassadors Program is an initiative to teach the issue of plastic littering to schools, environmental groups, and more by allowing them to interact with seabin technology. When asked how these types of education programs are being brought to universities, Ceglinski remarked that college students have been inspired by the Seabin Project to do their senior theses on subject matter like microplastics or the Seabin Project’s business model and success as a startup. He also says internships with the Seabin project exist in Australia.
Will You Support the Seabin Project?
Overall, the emergence of the Seabin marks an important shift to more sustainable technology in the marine and tourism industries. As stated by the Seabin Project’s 2017 newsletter, sustainability is no longer just a “nice thing to do.” Rather, it is becoming an important part of business strategy as issues like climate change becomes more urgent and public demand for transparency around sustainability related topics increases.
Furthermore, the Seabin is an effective, low-cost, silent, sustainable alternative to the existing solution of “trash boats,” which have nets built into them to scoop up rubbish as they are driven around marinas and are expensive to run. Unlike these boats, seabins operate 24/7 and are a massive touristic asset as their presence grabs peoples’ attention and increase public awareness of ocean pollution. Who knew such a humble, lightweight invention that is essentially a trash can could help change the world?