Image: The world's first microplastics lab named the 'Ocean Health Lab'. Photo: Supplied.
By EVIE MCLOUGHLIN
The world’s first ever microplastics analysis lab has opened on the shores of Sydney Harbour this week. October 6 marked the official launch of the Seabin Foundations Microplastics Lab, named ‘The Ocean Health Lab’, in Darling Harbour.
Mahi Paquette, CEO of Seabin Foundation, says that microplastics labs are essential for using marine waste data to influence policy and protect waterways.
Paquette used the example of data collected from a microplastics lab in Philadelphia, USA.
“The number of balloons in waterways [in Philidelphia] is a much larger amount than in Australia. This is because Australia has implemented restrictions and legislations on balloon plastic waste, so the amount washed into Seabin’s is evidently minimised” Paquette said.
The Sydney lab aims to store, dry, triage and record microplastics and marine litter captured from the 30+ ‘Seabins’ that operate in Sydney’s bustling harbour. Seabins, developed by The Seabin Project which launched back in 2015, are ‘trash skimmers’ that collect rubbish from the surface of waterways by pumping water through the device.
In the last two years, the Seabin foundation has filtered 14 billion litres of water in Sydney and gathered 3.3 million kg’s of microplastics and waste.
There are 1000s of Seabin’s worldwide and they are currently operating in 53 countries.
Seabin Project co-founder and CEO Pete Ceglinski says that the financing for the new microplastics lab was largely self-funded by the Seabin Foundation.
Ceglinski says the Seabin Project has been “pushed back” by a lack of government action.
Currently, the Seabin Foundation have self-raised 3 million dollars of their own money in comparison with the $80,000 that has been funded by the federal and state government.
When questioned on the reasoning behind the lack of government funding that the Seabin foundation receives, Ceglinski explained that “I honestly think it’s just a lack of governance”.
“If you’re going to fund something you need data and credibility, or it could be a misuse of funds if it doesn’t work. It’s a bit frustrating that we haven’t had the opportunity to collaborate with the government before”.
The lab will be run by two of Seabin’s full-time scientists who will focus their research and data analysis on the current plastic pollution problem in Sydney’s waterways. They aim to accurately develop baseline data that will determine the water quality and the health of marine life in Sydney Harbour.
“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” Ceglinski said.