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Seabins of Styrofoam: Spending the Day with Fraser Riverkeeper at Granville Island

Hello world! We hope you’ve been doing well – fighting the fight against plastic pollution, and being a steward for the oceans and waterways!

This past week LOOP Project founder Jocelyn had a birthday, and what better way to celebrate than to meet up with some of the Ocean Bridge Pacific Cohort and Fraser Riverkeeper / SwimDrinkFish at Granville Island to learn about ‘The Seabin Project’!

What exactly is a Seabin you may ask? Great question! (We’re still learning about it ourselves so bear with us.) They look like a small garbage bin submerged in the water with a net in the center. The Seabin is hooked up to a power supply that filters surface water and therefore collects things like plastic wrapping, bottles, pellets, etc. from the water’s surface. Check it out at https://seabin.io/the-model/.

Photo: Emptying Seabin for sample categorization (photo credit: Jeanine zerowaste.bcgirl)

We are very lucky to have three Seabins located in Granville Island! We collected each bin and spent the morning categorizing the varying samples collected. When taking a gross look at the bins, it looks as though they are filled with leaves and a few plastic wrappings. However, all is not what it seems from the surface! We started our categorization by separating any item that was larger than 3cm or so and weighing these items. We found large plastic fragments, bottle caps, wrappers, small plastic bags, etc. Our Seabin samples were then rinsed and run through a make-shift strainer which would collect small fragments of waste, and it was then our job to go through the collected samples and categorize and count each small fragment.

Photo: Separating large samples collected from Seabin

This experience can be summarized in three words:

‘So. Much. Styrofoam’.

It would be good if everyone could spend a day doing this, honestly. We don’t realize how large fragments of plastic or styrofoam get broken down into these microparticles, and get dumped or fall in the waterways. We hear about it, yes. But as a visual learner, Jocelyn said seeing such a large volume of these tiny fragments collected from just one bin was a huge eye opener into the issue surrounding microplastics – and to think this was just surface waste collected. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Overall we collected approximately 41 grams of small particle waste which contained styrofoam, plastic pellets, and miscellaneous items such as calcium deposits and shells from our Seabin.

Photo: Collected waste samples in a jar overlooking the harbour

Jocelyn would like to send a special thank you to Imogen for walking us through the process and answering all of our questions. It was a great learning experience, and we recommend the next time you are out and about at Granville Island, head to the marina and see if you can spot the Seabins and what might be in them!

Photo: Group photo of part of the Ocean Bridge Pacific Cohort (photo credit: Jeanine zerowaste.bcgirl)