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Planet CLE: Floating 'seabins' to collect hazardous debris from Lake Erie marinas

Four of these innovative 'floating trash cans' are being installed in marinas from Geneva to Huron.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The movement is called "Plastic Free July," but it's really all about using "plastic - less" in our daily lives.

And living where we do, plastic is one of the biggest threats to Lake Erie.

Fifty years ago, the amount of our lake's pollution landed it in TIME magazine,
with the publication writing, our Great Lake, was in "danger of dying by suffocation."

Those were dark days. Fast forward to 2022 and the transformation is amazing.

"We have a swimmable, drinkable, fishable body of water now, which is a huge thing to celebrate. However, there's always work to be done," says Sarah Orlando. 

She should know. As program manager for Clean Marinas, Sarah has devoted her professional career to educating and championing for waterways and shoreline.

Educating the public about the consequences of contaminants and ways to preserve our natural resources is priority number one. 

"We have some of the largest concentrations of plastics in the country here in the Great Lakes. So it's definitely an issue that we wanna stay on top of that we wanna continue to prevent and remove," Orlando said. 

Thanks to a team effort among: Keep Ohio Beautiful, The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Sea Grant and The Ohio Clean Marinas program -- devices calls "seabins" are being installed in marinas from Huron to Geneva. 

Created in Australia they resemble "floating trash cans" but the technology is much more sophisticated. Seabins collect marine debris from the water's surface, as well as gasoline, oils and, remarkably, microplastics which are one of the biggest threats to our lake.

"Microplastics are larger pieces of plastic that are broken down over time. And there could be chemicals in those plastics that can leach you into our local environment," Orlando said.


A seabin is already at work at Geneva's marina. Mentor Harbor Yacht Club, as well as marinas in Huron and Lorain will be part of the network too. 

Just one seabin can eliminate 1-thousand pounds of marine debris in a year.

'Our hope is we won't need seabins someday. If we can reduce reuse, repurpose our materials, change our culture around single use plastics, that we really can get to a point where we don't need this technology as much," Orlando said.

In addition to the seabins there is more cutting-edge technology headed our way, that will only improve the clean up of our beaches, and waters too.
However, the goal is not to continually add these innovative devices.
It's education and taking action, to keep these harmful pollutants out of our lakes and rivers in the first place.

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