Seabins in PortsToronto Trash Trapping Program Network Remove 92, 891 Small Pieces of Plastic Pollution from Toronto Harbour

Toronto (February 7, 2023) – PortsToronto and the University of Toronto Trash Team are proud today to release the official results of the 2022 Trash Trapping Program research season, which saw the program’s network of 10 Seabins divert 92,891 small pieces of plastic pollution from the Toronto Harbour over the course of four months.
A key component of the Trash Trapping Program is the continued work to quantify and communicate the program’s impact. Each year from May through September, student researchers with the University of Toronto Trash Team perform daily characterization of Seabins, identifying trends in debris collection and the origination of items.
Tiny debris, including microplastics – items smaller than five-millimetres – are by far the most common items (by count) collected by Seabins. Also included in the 18 kg of anthropogenic debris we diverted were slightly larger items, including hundreds to thousands of pieces of hard plastic fragments broken off from larger plastic items, plastic packaging waste including food wrappers, cigarette butts, bottle caps, cigar tips and plastic straws. The small plastic debris included pre-industrial plastic pellets or “nurdles”, and plastic foam, film and fragments.

For the first time, among the top ten large items found in the PortsToronto network of Seabins in 2022 were “fatbergs”, rock-like masses formed by the combination of fat, grease and wastewater materials, including wet wipes and diapers, which were typically found following storm events with heavy rainfall. In 2022, PortsToronto Seabins collected more than 100 fatbergs, a powerful reminder to residents of the city to consider carefully what is washed down the drain.
Each year, our Trash Trapping Program results are published to raise awareness in an effort to ensure this work is not limited to what can be accomplished in our own backyard. Findings like these can help to inform policy and drive meaningful change within our community and beyond Toronto’s shores. To view detailed data, results and mitigation strategies identified during the 2022 research season, please consult the U of T Trash Team’s website.
“For more than a century, PortsToronto has served as a steward and protector of the waters of the Toronto Harbour. During this time we have witnessed a great many changes, notably the troubling rise in plastic pollution that now seriously threatens the sustainability and biodiversity of our lakes and waterways,” said RJ Steenstra, President and CEO, PortsToronto. “As we collectively work toward solutions to this critical problem, we are encouraged by the progress being made through the PortsToronto Trash Trapping Program, and look forward to continuing to learn from waste collected by trash-capturing devices like Seabins here at home and worldwide as part of the International Trash Trap Network in an effort to educate, change behaviour and ultimately preserve our waterways for future generations.”
“This year, 2022, was a big year. Our trash trapping season included the highest number of trash traps yet, as well as our largest number of student opportunities for paid summer research positions. Seven U of T Trash Team research assistants worked daily throughout the summer to empty PortsToronto’s Seabins and quantify and characterize what we diverted from Lake Ontario,” said Dr. Chelsea Rochman, Head of Operations at the U of T Trash Team. “Their positive impact helps remove litter and synthesize data that can be used to inform upstream policies to reduce plastic pollution. This summer was our fourth season trapping trash with PortsToronto, and our sixth year of collaboration. We are proud of the work we do with PortsToronto and very grateful for their partnership.”
Fast Facts
  • Researchers estimate that 10,000 metric tonnes of waste enter the Great Lakes each year, much of it plastic.
  • A common occurrence in urban waterways, floating debris comes from a variety of sources – including overflowing or windblown trash bins at the water’s edge, storm water runoff and industry.
  • Anthropogenic (originating from human activity) debris, and microplastics in particular can harm wildlife and contaminate drinking water, and negatively impact public enjoyment of cherished shared water resources. 
  • The PortsToronto Trash Trapping Program employs innovative solutions to combat floating debris, and supports data collection and research efforts through our partnership with the University of Toronto Trash Team that inform technical, behavioural and policy solutions that can be applied well beyond Toronto.
  • Since the Trash Trapping Program’s launch in summer 2019, Seabins in the PortsToronto network have removed hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic debris from the Toronto Harbour, moving the needle toward cleaner water in Lake Ontario.
  • In 2022, the PortsToronto Trash Trapping Program expanded to include the deployment of a record 10 Seabins in the Toronto Harbour and the removal of nearly 100,000 small pieces of plastic pollution from Lake Ontario.
  • Seabins in the PortsToronto network are deployed at six locations on the Toronto waterfront and at the Outer Harbour Marina (4).
  • Along the waterfront, the Seabin deployed at Marina Quay East collected the most by mass and by count of small pieces of plastic pollution per day.
  • Through support of data collection and research in partnership with the University of Toronto Trash Team, this program is helping to drive meaningful change throughout the Great Lakes and beyond.
About the PortsToronto Trash Trapping Program
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). It 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.
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 $14 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 organization made up of undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, researchers, local volunteers and staff all working together with a common goal to increase waste literacy in our community while reducing plastic pollution in our ecosystems. 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. Their ultimate goal is to inspire an assortment of solutions resulting in the global reduction of waste and healthier habitats for wildlife and people.
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