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The Seabin is a post-consumer clean up technology that works in the last place viable to clean up our waterways before they reach the ocean. It’s basically a floating garbage can with a pump on the bottom that sucks surface water in from the top. It is beautiful and efficient in its simplicity.

The Seabin in action. (Photo via 5 Gyres)

The Seabin in action. (Photo via 5 Gyres)

It is not the first one like it, with earlier versions already in place in marinas around the world. The Seabin is great because of its small size and scalability to be implemented in lakes, estuaries and marinas everywhere. It likely would not work well in rivers where plenty of natural debris is making its way downstream and would fill the bin quickly.

It’s not an ocean fix either. It requires a calm water surface in order to be efficient. It would not work in choppy seas. It would also wreak havoc on passively floating marine life.

Photo via 5 Gyres

Photo via 5 Gyres

These are the same challenges that every proposed idea to capture ocean trash has had to face and failed. It proves the point that the last place to capture ocean trash is at the point of entry along coastlines. In the ocean, the economics and design challenges tell us that once plastic goes out to sea we must wait for it to sink or wash ashore.

The Seabin is also a great tool to use in a waste characterization analysis. With this device you can identify the most polluting items, types of plastic and brands. Is fast food packaging clogging the net? Which company? Is it film, foam, pellets, or is it straws, cups, chip bags? This information is great data to drive campaigns to find upstream solutions.

These upstream campaigns are the solutions with a lasting effect that will make downstream technologies like the Seabin unnecessary. For now, we need them.

(This article originally appeared on 5 Gyres. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

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