THE SEABIN PROJECT

GQ (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

How a surfer from By­ron is clean­ing up our oceans, one ‘bin’ at a time.

RRub­bish isn’t sexy. Bins aren’t sexy. Con­ser­va­tion isn’t sexy and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism isn’t sexy – un­less, of course, Leonardo Dicaprio is get­ting all broody in front of the dusty old folks at the United Na­tions. And per­haps be­cause tack­ling big en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues isn’t, on first glance, glossy, easy or, in some cases, even pos­si­ble, they’re rarely solved in any di­rect, job done, case-closed kind of way. Be­cause a re­us­able shop­ping bag can only get hu­man­ity so far. But on a Fri­day morn­ing in Syd­ney, one man demon­strated to GQ how a sim­ple so­lu­tion to a big prob­lem can make dras­tic en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact. As the sun peaked over the hori­zon to throw morn­ing light across a murky stretch of wa­ter, a plas­tic bot­tle be­came the metaphor for a glut­tonous so­ci­ety that could fix an is­sue it is re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing. The Seabin Project CEO, Pete Ceglin­ski, is a 40-year-old guy from By­ron Bay with an ear-to-ear smile, a broad chest forged from surf­ing and an ocker ac­cent to ri­val that of the late Steve Ir­win. On this day he is wear­ing a white T-shirt, dark shorts, black cap and “no feet” – a ref­er­ence to his ab­sence of shoes – and is care­fully slid­ing a cir­cu­lar bar­rel-like ob­ject into the wa­ter of Jones Bay Wharf, a stone’s throw from Syd­ney’s CBD. The black, grey and yel­low tub slips in al­most silently, its up­per lip com­ing to rest just be­neath the sur­face. Ceglin­ski stands back to sur­vey its po­si­tion­ing. The wa­ter is still, the morn­ing light plays with a thin patch of oil float­ing on the sur­face and the plas­tic bot­tle along with a wrap­per from a cig­a­rette packet drifts slowly to­wards the rim of the ob­ject be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing into the mesh within. “See – it just works,” says Ceglin­ski, hands on his hips in ac­knowl­edg­ment. This in­stal­la­tion of an­other Seabin at a Syd­ney wharf is the lat­est demo by Ceglin­ski to lo­cal ma­rine man­agers and one that marks a three-year jour­ney. His float­ing-bin de­sign, in­stalled in ports and mari­nas, helps solve the global is­sue of ocean pol­lu­tion and is stream­lin­ing the re­moval of waste from mari­nas across the world. By cap­tur­ing plas­tic bags, cig­a­rette butts, bot­tles and cups along with oil, pol­lu­tants and mi­cro-fi­bres, these in­nocu­ous, low-main­te­nance de­vices are ca­pa­ble of col­lect­ing around 1.5kg of ma­rine trash a day, which equates to nearly half a tonne per year. “I used to work as a prod­uct de­signer cre­at­ing in­jec­tion-moulded prod­ucts like toast­ers and ket­tles,” he re­calls. “I worked on rac­ing yachts and I was trav­el­ling around see­ing this pol­lu­tion, this rub­bish that was clog­ging up and chok­ing the ocean. It was a light-bulb mo­ment.” That was in 2015, and all it took to bring to life his scrib­ble of an idea was a drive to suc­ceed, im­pec­ca­ble tim­ing, two years of devel­op­ment and a few mil­lion views on a video teth­ered to a crowd fund­ing page. “It was the great­est mar­ket­ing cam­paign we have ever been a part of,” laughs Ceglinksi, who be­lieves shows like the BBC’S Blue Planet and out­spo­ken Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters like Jude Law, Mark Ruf­falo and Matt Da­mon have helped bring a louder voice to grow­ing con­cerns like sea pol­lu­tion. “The ocean plas­tic is­sue was trend­ing on social me­dia and that helped gen­er­ate some ini­tial in­ter­est… Seem­ingly overnight we had three mil­lion views on our video.” The Seabin Project raised $362,000 thanks to sup­port and in­ter­est from in­ter­na­tional pub­li­ca­tions, TV news chan­nels and vi­ral web­sites such as Now This, Bored Panda and the BBC. That kind of money-can’t-buy PR shot Ceglin­ski and his float­ing-bin con­cept straight into the spot­light – a lit­tle too soon, he sug­gests. “I was get­ting around 800 emails a day at one stage say­ing, ‘Where is it? We want it.’” He vividly rec­ol­lects just how over­whelmed

he felt phys­i­cally and men­tally. “I’ve only just started drink­ing cof­fee again. I had so much anx­i­ety I quit the stuff for like two years.” That fund­ing helped the team com­plete some much-needed R&D while the press in­ter­est built a wait­list of fu­ture clients. “I did a count at the end of last year on the num­ber of views our video has gen­er­ated so far, and to be hon­est, I lost count af­ter 800 mil­lion… It is well over a bil­lion now.” Ac­co­lades and re­newed me­dia in­ter­est has fol­lowed since the fin­ished prod­ucts be­gan rolling off the pro­duc­tion line in May 2018. Seabin has been re­warded with gongs at the Ad­vance Global Aus­tralian Awards, The Good De­sign Aus­tralia Awards and the Euro­pean Prod­uct De­sign Awards. It even took out a cov­eted in­dus­try award for in­no­va­tion at the world’s big­gest ma­rine trade show as well as the In­no­va­tion Award, pre­sented by Audi, at the GQ Men of the Year awards in Novem­ber. “Now our mis­sion is to get bins in the wa­ter,” states Ceglinksi. And it’s hap­pen­ing. More than 350 units are in the wa­ter in 50 mari­nas across 23 coun­tries, and Ceglinksi is al­most ju­bi­lant that those fig­ures are set to jump ex­po­nen­tially when they hit the North Amer­i­can mar­ket this com­ing May. Seabin has also been given the en­dorse­ment of soft­ware bil­lion­aire Mike Can­non-brookes, who along with Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk, has en­joyed lam­bast­ing Aus­tralia’s gov­ern­ment of late for their ap­proach to en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues. Most re­cently Can­nonBrookes went toe-toe with Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son via a series of tweets chal­leng­ing the gov­ern­ment over its la­belling of ‘baseload’ and coal power as “fair dinkum”. Mor­ri­son called for a Fair Dinkum Power ‘move­ment’ to em­brace wind and so­lar. The At­las­sian co-founder wore a Seabin cap dur­ing a TV ap­pear­ance on at least three oc­ca­sions dur­ing the Oc­to­ber me­dia cy­cle, recog­ni­tion of his part in this new, and all-im­por­tant cru­sade. He be­came aware of Ceglinksi’s work through the Ad­vance Global Aus­tralian Award. As a pre­vi­ous re­cip­i­ent him­self, he’s keen to see the Seabin con­cept roll out glob­ally. “It’s awe­some to see prac­ti­cal Aussie in­ge­nu­ity, backed by solid en­gi­neer­ing, solv­ing a global prob­lem,” Can­non-brookes tells GQ. But as Ceglin­ski turns his head to watch a frayed piece of blue twine dance around the rim of his in­ven­tion, he ad­mits that one day he hopes his Se­abins will be lifted from the wa­ter for good. “We made our mis­sion state­ment clear – we want to be able to one day live in a world where pol­lu­tion de­vices are not needed.” seabin­pro­ject.com

“I did a count at the end of 2017 on the num­ber of views our video has got... I lost count af­ter 800 mil­lion.”

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