Ocean-surface garbage bins come to B.C.'s West Coast

It's a whole new kind of garbage bin.

One that Brook Castelsky, chief operating officer of the Greater Victoria's Oak Bay Marine Group, says will make a significant step toward cleaning the area's ocean marinas of surface pollution.

Last week, the company installed British Columbia's first ocean-floating trash bin at the North Saanich Marina on Vancouver Island. Called a Seabin by its manufacturers, it floats on the water's surface and gently pumps water into a catchment bin, filtering out pollutants like petroleum-based oils, plastics, and Styrofoam before pumping the water back into the ocean.

"This morning we found a bottle cap and a potato chip bag," said Castelsky, as he held out mushy pieces of seaweed entangled with bits of Styrofoam and microplastic from the bin.

"Seeing plastic and garbage in the water is becoming more common on the West Coast, [and] we all know how significant an issue it is internationally."

Adam van der Zwan/CBC

The project's website says the Seabin was the brainchild of two "avid water lovers" in Australia. In 2015, Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski launched the company and developed the first prototype for the bin. Since then, over 700 Seabins have been installed in countries all over the world. 

Odai Sirri, from Poralu Marine, the company that mass produces the bins, says a number of them have been installed in Halifax and Toronto, and others have been delivered to marinas in Nanaimo and Vancouver.

"Pollution is probably the most important issue facing our oceans right now," Sirri said.

Adam van der Zwan/CBC

Garbage collects in marinas

A marina is typically an area where microplastics and garbage tend to collect in the water, he said, which makes it an ideal location for the bin.

Sirri said each bin is designed to be emptied once a day, and can hold about 20 kilograms of waste.

"It translates to about one and a half tons (of waste) per year," he said. 

Adam van der Zwan/CBC

Castelsky, of the Oak Bay Marine Group, said the company pays around $7,000 for each bin — a "fair investment," but one he said is worth making to help keep the ocean clean. "We're really excited to do our part," he said. 

Castelsky said he wants the project to expand to all of the company's other marinas, adding that two more of them will be installed at the Oak Bay Marina this week.

"Pedder Bay RV Resort and Marina will get one next week, and in time we'll have one in Ladysmith."