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Teaming up to tackle waste in the Great Lakes

Teaming up to tackle waste in the Great Lakes

A group of industrial and environmental partners have banded together to collect, analyze and divert waste captured in Seabins stationed around Harbour West Marina along Hamilton’s waterfront. This effort is part of the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup (GLPC): the single largest initiative of its kind in the world, using waste capture technology to remove plastics found in and around marinas in the Great Lakes region. Participants in the initiative include HOPA Ports, Laurel Steel, the Bay Area Restoration Council and GLPC.

A Seabin is a “trash skimmer” designed to be installed in the water of marinas, yacht clubs, ports. The clean tech unit acts as a floating garbage bin, skimming the surface of the water by pumping water into the device. The Seabin can intercept floating debris, macro and micro plastics 2mm and over.

Harbour West installed its first Seabin in 2019, after seeing some of the efforts taking place in ocean marinas, and a second last year through the GLPC program. It is estimated that 10 million kilograms of plastic enters the largest freshwater system in the world each year, from Canada and the United States; and plastic debris accounts for around 80% of the litter found on Great Lakes shorelines.

“To really address plastic pollution, we need to focus on two things at once: getting plastic that’s already in the water out, and putting systems in place to stop plastic from continuing to flow in every year,” says Christopher Hilkene, CEO of Pollution Probe, the environmental not-for-profit that, along with the Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR), is spearheading the GLPC. “The data we collect from the plastic capture devices helps us get a better picture of the problem, which is necessary to come up with effective solutions.”

Displaying some of the trash pulled out of Hamilton Harbour, (L-R) Christopher Hilklene, CEO Pollution Probe, Emily Paivalainen Communications & Community Relations Coordinator HOPA Ports, Christine Bowen Bay Area Restoration Council, Malin Schouten, Laurel Steel, Kurt Vos of Harbour West Marina

Ultimately, through the data collected and research generated, the team hopes to encourage residents and businesses to rethink our habits on land, and keep plastic out of the lake. “We always get questions from boaters about what we’re finding in the bins,” said Emily Paivalainen, Communications & Community Relations Coordinator at HOPA Ports. “In addition to small plastic pieces and food wrappers, cigarette butts are one of the most consistent finds.” Seabins at Harbour West collect about 2 or 3kg in a 24 or 48 hr period, a fraction of which is trash or microplastics.

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