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Seabins reduce marine debris and prevent it

Imagine, a pool skimmer for the ocean. The Seabin, a skimmer that rises and falls with the tide and attaches to marina docks, can collect up to three pounds of trash each day. Over the course of a year, a Seabin can collect up to 16,500 plastic bottles or 90,000 plastic bags each year.

For the device to operate at its full potential, marinas must agree to install and maintain them. Volunteers are needed to help collect data about the debris that Seabins collect. This year, three Seabins will be installed by UF/IFAS and Florida Sea Grant as part of a project funded by the Florida Beverage Association Community Grant and the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates at least 8 million tons of plastic waste end up in the world’s oceans each year and that plastic makes up 80% of marine debris.

“Marine debris and plastic pollution are huge concerns globally,” said Maia McGuire, UF/IFAS associate program leader for coastal and marine Extension and Florida Sea Grant associate director for Extension and education. “Seabins are a new tool in the toolbox.”

The goal is for the Seabin to collect floating debris discarded at marinas before it makes its way out into the ocean.

Even better, Seabins are safe for wildlife and only collect the surface layer of water into the collection bag, which reduces the risk of capturing any unwanted creatures.

“The vast majority of marine life swims below that surface layer and is not drawn into the Seabin,” McGuire said. “If an animal does end up in the catch bag — for example shrimp which might jump into it — the animal can be released when the catch bag is emptied which is done at least daily.”

The Seabin is expected to last 30 years, but throughout that time, it requires the support of volunteers and marinas that will host the Seabin.

Marinas must supply the electricity to run the Seabin and contribute staff time to clean and maintain it. Ideally, marinas will weigh the catch bag daily and report the data. Then, volunteers are needed to evaluate the data and analyze the debris collected to sort what is human made from natural debris such as plant material.

“The information collected from the Seabin is just as helpful as the actual collection of trash,” McGuire said. “The data we learn from what is collected helps us further educate consumers on ways to reduce debris and plastic use.”

“We get as frustrated as anyone else when we see our plastic bottles in our Florida waterways or beaches, especially because our plastic bottles are 100% recyclable,” said Liz DeWitt, Florida Beverage Association president and CEO. “When our bottles are disposed of properly in a recycling bin, they will be remade into new bottles. That saves resources, protects our environment and reduces our use of new plastic.”

Three Seabins will be installed across the state. The first was installed last week at the Marineland Marina in St. Augustine.

“This program can grow throughout the state,” DeWitt said. “We hope to see some success here and replicate these efforts in other places.”

There are daily volunteer opportunities to empty the bins and analyze the debris collected. Visit the Florida Sea Grant Seabins website to stay up to date on future Seabin installments, volunteer opportunities and how to get involved.