Seabin Project Monitors Plastic Pollution at 21 Locations Around Georgian Bay

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Sources of Knowledge Forum volunteer Owen Glendon shows off the Seabin station at the head of Little Tub Harbour in Tobermory with the sign featuring “Inspector Seabin”.
By John Francis, Bruce Peninsula Press

The charity Georgian Bay Forever is working with volunteer groups to install Seabin filters in 21 locations around Georgian Bay. The purpose of the project is to understand and measure the kinds of plastic pollution at those 21 locations.

One of the spots is the head of Little Tub Harbour in Tobermory, where the installation and daily emptying chores are handled by volunteers from the Sources of Knowledge Forum. (SOKF also handles two other locations in the Tobermory area: one at the fuel dock in Little Tub and one at the Marine Operations Base in Big Tub. The Seabins were purchased through Georgian Bay forever; two were paid for by Parks Canada, the other by the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula.)

Seabins are about the size of a garbage can, hanging underwater, moored to a pier, a dock or a stake. The one at the head of Little Tub hangs from one of the floating docks. The electrical mechanism cycles about 30 times per minute, lowering the basket so that about a litre of surface water flows in, then lifting the basket so that a couple of litres drain out through the mesh sides — repeat endlessly. The mesh filters out anything larger than about 2 centimetres. Early June yields have been relatively sparse (“the harbour’s pretty clean, actually”) but these are expected to “pick up” as the busy season gets underway.

Much of the detritus is organic — aquatic plants mostly — but there is frequently plastic embedded with it.

The Seabin cannot filter micro-plastics; any mechanism fine enough to do that would plug up with pollen in a matter of minutes. Research by Georgian Bay Forever has shown that amounts of macro- and micro-plastics are related.

Data from the 21 Seabins will help create an understanding of the types and sources of plastic flotsam in Georgian Bay.