PortsToronto Trash Trapping Program

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Researchers estimate that 10,000 metric tonnes of waste enter the Great Lakes annually, and plastic litter can harm wildlife and contaminate drinking water. Trash trapping technology, like Seabins, can play an important role in capturing floating plastics and microplastics and removing them from the water.

The PortsToronto Trash Trapping Program employs trash trapping technology and solutions-based research to tackle plastic pollution and protect Toronto’s waters for future generations. It is led by PortsToronto and the U of T Trash Team, in partnership with the Waterfront Business Improvement Area (WBIA) and the City of Toronto BIA Office Innovation Grant, Nieuport Aviation, the Toronto Zoo, Harbourfront Centre and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).
 
The PortsToronto Trash Trapping Program is part of the Toronto Inner Harbour Floatables Strategy, a partnership led by TRCA, and of the International Trash Trapping Network, an initiative led by the U of T Trash Team and Ocean Conservancy, and has influenced the launch of similar trash trapping and data collection programs throughout the Great Lakes and beyond.
 

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Research Partnership with the University of Toronto Trash Team

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To quantify our impact and inform policy, PortsToronto partners with the University of Toronto Trash Team on research, education and outreach led by Dr. Chelsea Rochman, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology alongside Trash Team co-founders Susan Debreceni and Dr. Rafaela Gutierrez.

As part of this collaborative initiative, researchers from the Rochman Lab collect and analyze the anthropogenic debris including plastics and microplastics captured by the Seabins to determine the origination of some of these materials. This process will, in turn, better inform the Trash Team’s solutions-based research and community outreach program, which ultimately seeks to increase waste literacy and prevent plastics and microplastics from entering waterways in the first place.

Research Results 

28July-OHM-CRochman7.JPG The Trash Trapping program diverted tens of thousands of small pieces of plastic pollution from Lake Ontario over the course of a seven-week field season in 2021.

Individual Seabins removed an estimated 209 pieces of small plastic per day, with the entire network capable of diverting 33-kilograms (72-lbs) of litter throughout an entire season – the weight of approximately 3,400 plastic water bottles, which includes more than 230,000 pieces of small plastic.

This research by the U of T Trash Team confirms the important role trash trapping technology, like Seabins, can play in capturing floating plastics and microplastics in the water. In addition to increasing waste literacy among the public, the U of T Trash Team’s work to characterize and quantify litter diverted by Seabins can serve to inform policies that mitigate plastic pollution and protect the wildlife and people of the Great Lakes.
 
  • To learn more about the 2021 results, click here
  • To view detailed data, results and mitigation strategies identified during the 2021 research season, please consult the U of T Trash Team's policy brief.
  • To learn more about 2020 research season results, click here

 

Background

In an effort to combat and study plastic pollution in Toronto waterways, PortsToronto launched its award-winning Seabin Program in 2019 at the Outer Harbour Marina and at Pier 6 on Toronto’s waterfront. The Seabin is a floating trash bin that acts like a vaccum, collecting plastic debris as small as two millimetres as well as hydrocarbons like fuel and oil with the help of a filtration pad.

Project partners, the University of Toronto Trash Team, count and characterize the materials captured by PortsToronto Seabins in order to further understand the origination of floating plastic and litter in the Toronto Harbour, and to inform technological and behavioural solutions to prevent these materials from entering Lake Ontario in the first place.

In 2022, the program will expand to new locations in the Toronto Harbour and explore the use of new technology for tackling floating waste, including an engineering design study in partnership with the University of Toronto aiming to create a bespoke trash-trapping device for Toronto’s unique waterways.

In 2022, the program was rebranded as the PortsToronto Trash Trapping Program in an effort recognize the increased scope of the program and new tactics employed.

The Program has been recognized by the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) with a Gold National Award of Excellence, and with the Robert Eaton Environmental Award of Excellence. It has been featured on several broadcast, print and online publications, including the PBS Newshour documentary The Plastic Problem and La terre en nous, a series airing on Canada’s leading First Nations broadcast outlet APTN. 

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How does a Seabin work?

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The Seabin moves up and down with the natural flow of water, collecting all floating debris. Water is sucked in from the surface and passes through a catch bag inside the Seabin, with a submersible water pump capable of displacing 25,000 LPH (litres per hour), plugged directly into 110/22V outlet. The water is then pumped back into the marina, leaving litter and debris trapped in the catch bag to be disposed of properly. Just one Seabin can collect an estimated 3.9 kilograms of debris in a day, filtering as much as 1.4 metric tonnes of trash in one year.

 

Did you know?

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Just ONE Seabin can:

  • Collect an estimated 3.9 kilograms of debris in a day, filtering as much as 1.4 metric tonnes of trash in one year;
  • Intercept microfibres/plastics as small as 2 millimetres;
  • Collect hydrocarbons like fuel and oil with the help of a filtration pad; and,
  • As an added bonus, the Seabin’s construction is 100 per cent recyclable.