World-first microplastics lab launched in Darling Harbour by Seabin foundation

Australian National Maritime Museum

Seabin Foundation has officially launched the world’s first Ocean Health Data Lab, specialising in microplastics, at its Official Host Venue, the Australian National Maritime Museum, today in Sydney.

The Ocean Health Lab is a solar-powered, retrofitted 40ft shipping container, dedicated to storing, drying, triaging, and recording microplastics and all marine litter captured from the 30+ Seabin’s operating 24/7 in Sydney Harbour since July 2020.

Staffed by Seabin Foundation’s two full time marine scientists, the Ocean Health Lab researches the extent of the floating plastic pollution problem in Sydney’s waterways, with a particular focus on microplastics. The research will inform ways to address floating pollution issues in the form of new best practices, policy and legislation, and will enable Seabin™ to accurately develop critical baseline data that may determine both water quality and the health and progress of Sydney harbour.

Australian start-up, Seabin™, is pioneering ocean health solutions, using innovative in-water technology, with the latest model including digital water sensors, which, combined with the data from the Ocean Health Lab, will enable a better understanding of floating plastic pollution highly visible in Sydney harbour. This data will feed into Seabin’s digital, open-source platform, scheduled to be released later this year, in collaboration with tech-giant IBM. The dashboard and data generated by Seabin™ fills critical data gaps relevant to the United Nations’ current Decade of Ocean Science, and also supports the United Nations’ Global Sustainable Development Goals 11 (Sustainable Cities & Communities ) and 14.1 (Life Below Water)

“Generating ocean health data that will help save our oceans is amazing; to be starting here in Sydney Harbour is simply next level. Sydney is the first city in the world to filter the water for microplastics and other contaminants, and now together, we are benchmarking for the rest of the world to follow suit.” Says Pete Ceglinski, CEO & Co-Founder of Seabin.

“We have spent over $3m self-funding the clean-up, prevention, and data programs of Sydney Harbour for over two years now and it’s not sustainable. Over 70 tons of microplastics and plastic pollution removed is incredible, but we need high-level support now. You only have to look at the data or even just look at the water to see how much waste is leaking into Sydney harbour every day” continues Pete Ceglinski.

A recent survey that included over 200 participants found that

  • 50.71% of communities see floating plastic pollution daily
  • 49.29% see floating plastic pollution “often” & “only sometimes”
  • 90% want to see workers actively cleaning up floating plastic pollution daily in their city
  • 99% of the survey would be happy to see their local, state, or federal government supporting the clean-up of floating plastic pollution in their city.

The launch of the Seabin Foundation’s Ocean Health Data Lab is a significant milestone for water quality in Sydney, and a vital asset playing a part within Seabin’s successful 100 Smarter Cities by 2050 program, which launched in Sydney, July 2020.

To date, the 100 smarter cities by 2050 program has created 6 local full-time jobs, and filtered over 14 billion litres of water within Sydney Harbour, removing fuel, oil, plastic, microplastics and other harmful contaminants, including:

  • Over 73 tons of marine litter
  • Over 4.5 million plastic items captured (all plastic items including microplastics)
  • Over 1.6 million microplastics captured

The lab functions as a multipurpose research facility and a meeting place where research, citizen science, education, and community engagement can overlap weekly. The Ocean Health Lab is externally decorated with Indigenous art by Bronwen Smith and Gavin Chatfield of Gwiyaala Aboriginal Art; an invitation to remember our shared connection to waterways and the oceans.

The Australian National Maritime Museum attracts over 850,000 visitors each year, and is now the Official Host Venue for the Ocean Health Lab. The Maritime Museum will work with Seabin™, to deliver education and community outreach programming with a focus on ocean science, floating plastic pollution, water quality and upstream solutions.

Mahi Paquette, CEO & Director of Seabin Foundation has said: “We are overjoyed to have the Ocean Health Data Lab hosted at the Australian National Maritime Museum, a location that will significantly increase our capacity to create meaningful experiences and science to turn off the tap of plastics entering waterways in Sydney.”

Daryl Karp AM, Director of the Museum responded: “The Australian National Maritime Museum is really excited to be partnering with the Seabin Foundation, and hosting their world-first Ocean Lab, here in Darling Harbour.”

“Ocean health and sustainability are at the core of our work here at the museum. We are thrilled to share the unique insight and experiences the Ocean Lab will provide with the public – and especially with the many cohorts of students who visit the museum. We will be working with Seabin Foundation’s educational initiatives to connect our visitors – young and old – to the richness and importance of our oceans.”

The lab’s residency at the Maritime Museum will join existing exhibits that see over 850,000 visitors per year. The Ocean Health Lab will be open 10am-3pm for public visits on Saturday 8th October, after which it will be offering tours through the Australian National Maritime Museum ticketing system twice daily (temporarily weekdays only).

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