Seabins to catch rubbish in Aussie waters

Australian-designed a Seabin devices are to be installed in Melbourne and Sydney.
Australian-designed a Seabin devices are to be installed in Melbourne and Sydney.

Floating bins which suck up rubbish from waterways won't solve the pollution crisis facing the world's oceans - but they're a good start.

Seabin Project co-founder and chief executive Pete Ceglinski admits the floating bins - "a simple idea" - have their critics with some questioning how much of a difference they'll really make.

But while the Australian doesn't pretend they'll save the oceans he knows they can be part of a coordinated response.

"The solution isn't Seabins - it's education, changing our consumer culture and learning how to recycle better," he told AAP.

Mr Ceglinski, a keen surfer, teamed up with fellow Aussie Andrew Turton in 2015 to create a floating rubbish bin which sucks in water, trapping litter and debris, before pumping the water out again.

The Seabins can be placed in marinas, yacht clubs, docks and "any waterbody with a calm environment".

The project was launched with a successful crowdfunding campaign and Seabins are now installed in 11 countries overseas.

They're about to come "home" to Australia with Seabins to be installed in Melbourne and Sydney in early June.

The company is undertaking an "operational trial" with the City of Melbourne and is also partnering with the National Maritime Museum on Sydney Harbour.

A council spokeswoman told AAP "we look forward to exploring the potential of the system to keep our urban waterways clean".

A museum spokeswoman says it's committed to working with the company to protect "beautiful oceans" for future generations.

The bins - which double as scientific water monitoring stations - are fixed to floating docks and move up and down with the tide collecting up to 1.5 kilograms of waste every day.

They are purchased by marinas and yacht clubs, for example, who monitor the bins which can hold up to 20kg of debris before being cleaned out.

Seabins are placed in controlled waters where they can be easily monitored.

"We start upstream, close to the source of the litter," Mr Ceglinski says.

"We figure if we can catch the litter close to the city and stop it from entering the ocean that's a start."

In Australia, they'll be launched as part of Seabin Project's "share program", which sees environmental groups collect the rubbish and process the data.

The groups will count how many cigarette butts, plastic bags and other products are captured and then advocate for more responsible waste management practices.

"We'll be able to learn what the real state of our waterways is," Mr Ceglinski said.

"That's the way we're going to fix the ocean plastics crisis."

Most entrepreneurs want to see their product eventually used all over the world.

But Mr Ceglinski wants the opposite - a world where Seabins are redundant because rubbish isn't entering waterways in the first place.

American environmental activist Bill McKibben says the bins sound promising but aren't enough on their own.

"With the scale of pollution you'd need a billion bins," he told AAP.

"By 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than the weight of (all) fish."

Australian Associated Press