Concern continues to mount for the declining health of the world’s oceans. It’s estimated that 10 to 20 million tons of plastic enters the ocean each year and scientists are predicting that by 2050 the amount of plastic will outweigh the number of fish. One company helping spearhead the cleanup is Australian ocean innovators the Seabin Group.
It’s been a busy few years for CEO Pete Ceglinski who co-founded the floating bin company with his business partner Andrew Turton back in 2014. “Our video went viral three years ago, so now people are aware there’s a solution out there,” he says.
After Seabin’s commercial product hit the global marketplace in May 2018 it sold 400 units in the first 12 months. Now more than 720 Seabins across 40 countries are in the water. And the Group forecasts that by the end of 2019, 2,000 units will be capturing a total of 7.8 tons of litter per day.
When Australia Innovates covered Seabin back in 2016, the company was working on finalising its prototype. The original iteration has since been dialled down to minimise retailing costs, and the engineering and design has been honed. “We now have the Seabin working more efficiently and collecting more litter, but using less componentry and manufacturing,” says Ceglinski.
The first hard edge seafront prototype was recently installed in Circular Quay. This feat was an impressive hurdle for the company as it nods to the expanding design capabilities of the bins, allowing newer models to operate in more diverse and exposed bodies of water. The design team is also working on scaling up the technology to make the bins more commercially viable. “We’re working on building a bin five times the size of the current one and trialling it in the Sydney Harbour,” he says, but insists they haven’t yet cracked an open ocean solution. “It’s still a little while away but the concept is on the drawing board.”
Since inception, Seabin Group’s primary goal has been to eliminate the need for its own invention. It seems like a contradiction, but Ceglinski says he wants to live in a world with clean waterways. “We shouldn’t have litter or plastic in the ocean and the absolute ultimate goal is to not have a need for the bins in the water,” he says. “Therefore, we want to implement both reactive and preventative solutions.”
For the last few years, Seabin has split its business 50-50 between building and selling bins and educating the population to help stem the tide of pollution. To date, more than 4,000 school and university students have been involved in Seabin’s Global Ambassador Program. Seabin lessons have also been added to school curriculums in five countries, estimating the educational reach to extend beyond 30,000 children.
Ceglinski has started using the not-for-profit Seabin Foundation program for educating corporations as well, and just spent a month travelling the west coast of the US to raise awareness. “For four weeks I took my toddler, my partner and my surfboard around in a van and hosted community events, demonstrations and school tutorials.” While in California, Ceglinski presented to the staff at Tesla about the power of lateral thinking in problem solving. Now, to compliment this education program, Seabin is launching a data collection app. A tool Ceglinski hopes will become a key player in monitoring the health of our waterways.
Today you can find the Seabin in waterways worldwide from a marina in San Diego to the pontoons of Venice. Just before Ceglinski launched the commercial product early in 2018, he relocated his headquarters from Spain back onto home soil in Australia. The company still maintains its strongest presence in Europe, manufacturing 90 per cent of its componentry in France with Poralu Marine. But Ceglinski is now sourcing some components in Australia and is working on expediting Seabin’s presence in the US and Asia Pacific - including to help target the river crisis in South East Asia.
The well-deserved spotlight on Seabin’s achievements has also sparked a growing crowd of copycats. A fact that Ceglinski finds encouraging more than irritating, saying it’s a promising sign in the fight to clean-up our waterways. “It’s cool that we’ve sparked people’s creativity. We want our oceans to be clean, so the more people trying to find a solution, the merrier,” he says.