PortsToronto and U of T Trash Team Announce Results of 2020 Research on Floating Debris in the Toronto Harbour

Toronto (January 4, 2021) –With its second season now complete, the Seabin Program – managed by program partners PortsToronto and the University of Toronto Trash Team – has released 2020 results that confirm the important function the Seabins play both in capturing plastics and microplastics, as well as informing research on origination and approaches to elimination.
U of T Trash Team researchers report that over the 2020 season, between July and October, PortsToronto’s Seabins diverted an average of 85,000 small pieces of anthropogenic debris from Lake Ontario. Other than tiny trash, including microplastics (smaller than 5-millimetres), which are by far the most common items collected by the Seabins, other commonly found macroplastics include clear plastic packaging, hard plastic fragments from takeout containers or plastic packaging, and cigarette butts. 
During the course of this research season, the U of T Trash Team also discovered that vegetation collected by the Seabins has an important role to play in accumulating microplastics. While the Seabins are effective in capturing floating litter and debris as small as 2-millimetres, plant material collected in the bins acted as a magnet to capture tiny microplastics, such as pre-production plastic pellets, that might otherwise pass through the Seabin’s capture bag. On average this season, PortsToronto’s Seabins diverted more than 11,000 plastic pellets from Toronto’s harbour.
As part of their wider research efforts and to help inform the future third phase of the PortsToronto Seabin Program, Trash Team researchers also undertook a visual audit of water lots on the Toronto waterfront, from Ireland Park to Sugar Beach, to help identify problem areas where floating litter typically accumulates. This season, researchers found over 100 different types of litter at the 12 visual audit locations. Of note, the majority of the floatable litter found were single-use plastics, including plastic straws, bottle caps and bags. This data supports the urgent need to reduce the use of harmful single-use plastic. 
To view detailed data and results from the 2020 research season, click here.
To read more about the PortsToronto Seabin Program, visit portstoronto.com.
Interested in how you can get involved? Visit the University of Toronto Trash Team website to learn more about their solutions-based research and waste literacy initiatives, including the upcoming Home Waste Audit.
“The year 2021 marks the 110th anniversary of our organization and more than a century of PortsToronto’s stewardship of our city’s great waterfront. In tandem with our own sustainability efforts, collaborating with the U of T Trash Team was a natural step for us in our ongoing mission to preserve and protect the waters of the Toronto Harbour for future generations,” said Geoffrey Wilson, CEO of PortsToronto. “Lending our partnership, support and infrastructure to this dedicated team of researchers has and will continue to lead to innovative, evidence-based solutions to tackle the serious issue of plastic pollution in waterways here at home and throughout the Great Lakes.”
“This year, we estimate that roughly 30 million tonnes of plastic debris entered aquatic ecosystems globally – including the Great Lakes. Trash traps, like Seabins, play a role in reducing plastic emissions to lakes and oceans. We are thrilled to be doing our part with PortsToronto to divert litter from our local waterways.” said Dr. Chelsea Rochman of the U of T Trash Team. “And we are doing more than that. We are using scientific protocols to measure our impact and inform policy through the quantification and characterization of captured waste. We are also conducting outreach to increase awareness about the issue and motivate others to join us in trash trapping as a solution to plastic pollution.”
Seabin Program Background
In an effort to combat and study single-use plastics and microplastics in our waterways, PortsToronto launched the award-winning Seabin Pilot Project in 2019 at the Outer Harbour Marina and Pier 6. 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 inform technological and behavioural solutions to prevent these materials from entering Lake Ontario in the first place.
About PortsToronto
For more than 100 years PortsToronto has worked with its partners at the federal, provincial and municipal levels to enhance the economic growth of the City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. PortsToronto owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which welcomed approximately 2.8 million passengers in 2019; the Outer Harbour Marina, one of Canada's largest freshwater marinas; and, Marine Terminal 52, which provides transportation, distribution, storage and container services to businesses at the Port of Toronto. PortsToronto is committed to fostering strong, healthy and sustainable communities and has invested more than $12 million since 2009 in charitable initiatives and environmental programs that benefit communities along Toronto's waterfront and beyond. PortsToronto operates in accordance with the Canada Marine Act and is guided by a nine-member board with representation from all three levels of government.
About The University of Toronto Trash Team
The U of T Trash Team, co-founded in 2017, is a science-based community outreach group that combines science, education and community outreach locally to increase waste literacy and reduce plastic pollution globally. Their local projects use research to inform policy and management, and education and community outreach to increase waste literacy, engage the public and implement effective solutions. Each project is treated as a case study where best practices can be replicated in relevant regions to mitigate waste both locally and globally. Their ultimate goal is to inspire an assortment of solutions resulting in the global reduction of waste and healthier habitats for wildlife and people.
Media Contacts:
Jessica Pellerin
Media Relations and Public Affairs Specialist
Cell: (647) 298-0585
E-mail: jpellerin@portstoronto.com