Tackling marine plastic with The Seabin Project

Huge amounts of marine plastic are inflicting untold damage on Northern Ireland’s sea life and aquatic ecosystems, with recent data demonstrating that 99 per cent of seabirds will have ingested plastic by 2050. The Seabin Project is the latest initiative launched by Ards and North Down Borough Council, which seeks to combat the prevalence of marine plastic through the adoption of high-tech ‘seabins’.

Statistics recently published in the Marine Litter Report provide a sobering insight into Northern Ireland’s growing plastic problem. 82 per cent of all marine litter in 2017 was found to be plastic, with the average walker seeing four items of litter for every step that they take on a Northern Irish beach. Bottles, food packaging and other debris now course through Irish waters, compromising the habitats of aquatic species whilst damaging the quality of water across the island.

In a bid to tackle the problem, Ards and North Down Borough Council have installed an innovative ‘seabin’ at Bangor Marina for a three-month trial period. Capable of sieving up to two million litres of water per year, the device is the first of its kind in County Down, and joins a fleet of over 200 other seabins in operation across the world.

Using a natural fibre inner mesh, the seabins filter large volumes of water, trapping tiny pieces of plastic as well as larger pieces of debris. Moving up and down with the tide, water passes through a catchbag with a submersible water pump. Water is pumped back into the marina, with debris left inside the bag for regular disposal. The seabins also offer the capability of collecting a percentage of oils and pollutants on the water’s surface. The devices are to be placed in “debris problem areas”.

Testing the waters

The cutting-edge technology was purchased by Ards and North Down Borough Council for around £3,500, only a year following the installation of the first device of its kind on Portsmouth Harbour. The device, described as a “floating garbage bin” by the Council, functions by ‘sucking’ waste from docks and marinas, removing potential hazards to marine life. A successful trial of the Bangor seabin will see the installation of three more of the devices at sites at the Bangor Marina and Portaferry to bolster the activity.

The Seabin Project comes as one of several to be funded by Ards and North Down Council’s Recycling Community Investment Fund, which has accrued nearly £15 million in landfill cost savings through improved recycling engagement over the past four years. 

Established in 2016 to promote sustainability and greater levels of domestic recycling, the Fund has been used annual to fund community-based projects.

The seabins are the entrepreneurial brainchild of two Australian surfers, Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Turton. The firm manufacturing the devices has seen particular success following trials in Italy, where the LifeGate PlasticLess project has filtered plastics from the Mediterranean Sea, before making them into new products.

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