Grant Program Brings Pollution Fighting Products to WI Marinas

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh have received a grant to install Seabins, innovative plastic pollution capture devices, at three Wisconsin Clean Marinas.  

 An estimated 22 million pounds of plastic enter the waters of the Great Lakes each year. However, plastic pollution technologies, like the Seabin, are boosting the outlook for how this issue can be alleviated. With over 1,400 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, the project is an opportunity to test this new technology. 

 A floating trash bin, the Seabin is powered by an onshore electrical outlet and fixed to a floating dock where it skims the surface of the water, pumping water into the device while capturing debris like cups, bags, straws, and even microscopic pieces of plastic. It can also be equipped with an oil-absorbent pad to soak up gasoline and detergents on the surface. The bin can collect over eight pounds of debris a day or 1.4 tons a year. It’s also made of 100% recycled material. 

 The project is part of the  NOAA Marine Debris Program, and is working under two initiatives, the  Great Lakes Circular Economy Partnership  and the  Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup  (GLPC), an initiative that launched the largest deployment of litter and plastic catching technology along Canada’s Great Lakes coast. The GLPC installed capture devices at 21 participating public and private marinas, ranging from Lake Superior to Lake Ontario, and are now expanding to several states, including Wisconsin coastal communities.  

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 To be distributed among marinas are Seabins, as well as installations of fishing line recycling bins at several sites. UW-Oshkosh research interns will be monitoring the contents caught in the devices daily. Characterizing the types of plastic debris that are found in the bins will provide insights into what is entering the waterways and the scale of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. This information can be used to develop strategies on how to curb specific sources of plastic pollution as well as spread awareness. Educating marinas and coastal communities about plastic pollution while encouraging recycling and prevention of marine debris is another major outcome of the project. 

 In addition to the Seabins, UW-Oshkosh was also awarded funds to purchase a trash collection boat through the U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Trash Free waters grant program. The boat is expected to travel around the harbors of Sturgeon Bay, the Fox River and bay of Green Bay, and Manitowoc. The Seabins will be installed at the selected marinas this fall or at the beginning of the boating season in spring. An additional bin will also be placed in the Fox River at the UWO Environmental Research and Innovation dock. The fishing line recycling bins may be distributed to marinas this fall. Another opportunity through the  Keep America Beautiful  grant program may provide six additional Seabins to the equation.