Can an invention by two Aussie surfers who became tired (and probably a bit peeved off, understandably) of having to paddle their way through floating plastic and other rubbish in their local waters be used to clean up Bangkok’s waterways?
Bangkok was known as the ‘Venice of the East’ during much of the 19th Century, when it’s many canals or khlongs, smaller waterways and the mighty Chao Phraya River wove a vital criss-cross network of transportation and travel routes across the city.
Today, the khlongs and waterways that weren’t filled in over the years to make way for roads and which otherwise survived modernization of the city, still play an important role in daily life. Thousands of commuters travel on them in water taxi boats, and tourists meander along them in longtail boat tours to see a different side of Bangkok.
But these waterways are, well let’s face it… they’re seriously polluted. Plastic bottles, household rubbish, everyday litter, wastewater discharge and pollutants can regularly be seen floating along the khlongs and the Chao Phraya River.
So, back to Seabin – that’s the name the two Aussie surfers-cum-inventors have given their environmentally-minded creation. Essentially, the Seabin is an automated rubbish bin that sits on the surface of the water and catches floating trash, oil, fuel, detergents and other waste.
How does it work? The Seabin is designed for contained environments such as yacht clubs, marinas, harbours, ports, residential lakes and inland waterways. It sits on the water’s surface and through a shore-based water pump it sucks water in, along with any trash and liquid pollutants in the water. A removable catch bag made from natural fibre gathers the trash and the water is pumped through to an (optional) oil-water separator, before being fed back into the waterway once cleaned.
The size of the Seabin and its catch bag are designed to be easily changed and handled by one person. Another catch bag is installed while the contents of the full catch bag is disposed of. The process is constant, as the Seabin diligently carries on with its cleaning work.
Could Seabins be installed at water taxi boat stops and at regular intervals along Bangkok’s khlongs, waterways and the Chao Phraya River? There are some who say it may possibly work here, others who say it wouldn’t work here (mostly because of the sheer volume of waterborne trash that would constantly jam up the Seabins) and there are those who say the intent and the idea behind the Seabin is good, but that ‘field testing’ in Bangkok would be needed.
The Seabin’s creators – the two entrepreneurial Aussie surfers – are themselves quick to admit their invention “can’t catch everything right now but it’s a really positive start.”
It’s a big mission, they explain, to rid the world’s oceans of plastics and pollution, but it can be done. They have a list of goals for the Seabin project which, along with the immediate purpose of the invention itself, includes educating people, communities and schools around the globe on the responsible use and disposal of plastic, the conversion of captured plastics into energy and, ultimately, the achieving of pollution free oceans which would have no need for the Seabin.
The Seabin project has been crowdsourced on Indiegogo. The two Aussies hope to begin production and shipping of the Seabin within 2016, including production and maintenance operations in the countries of installation to support local economies.