Disturbing household items pulled from Sydney Harbour

·News and Video Producer
·2-min read

Beneath Sydney’s iconic harbour horrifying amounts of garbage are lurking, a new trial has revealed.

In just 12 months, an estimated 2920kg of plastic, fuels and detergents were pulled from Sydney Harbour Defence sites using new Australian technology.

Powering the project were subversive pumps, known as Seabins, which draw water through filters which catch microplastics as small as 2mm as well as oil and fuel. They cost just $3 a day to run.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley pictured left looking at a Seabin which has been removing plastic from Sydney Harbour. Right is items pulled from the water.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley examines a Seabin which has been removing plastic from Sydney Harbour. Source: Tony Walters

Now used in countries across the world including the United States, Italy, France and Indonesia, each unit can capture 1.4 tonnes of debris a year.

In total, 860 Seabins spread across the world have captured over 2.5 million kg of waste. 

Seabin trial to be extended as expectations exceeded

One unit situated off Sydney’s Garden Island has been hauling in 140kg of garbage a week, translating to one item every 40 seconds.

Defence Minister Melissa Price said the government trial had exceeded expectations and announced following the year-long trial, three permanent Seabins would be maintained at Garden Island.

“Over a two-week period, the Seabins captured 6,198 items of waste from Sydney Harbour, including 3,500 microfibres and microplastics, and 2,000 unidentifiable pieces of plastic waste,” she said in a statement.

Breakdown of garbage in harbour revealed

Plastic is one of the most difficult substances to remove from the environment as it continues to disintegrate into smaller pieces known as microplastics or microfibres.

Two men run under Sydney Harbour where almost 3000kg of waste was removed from the water in a 12-month trial.
The 12-month trial saw almost 3000kg of waste removed from Sydney Harbour. Source: Getty - File Image

Looking at data from two weeks of the trial period, the most common item extracted from Sydney Harbour was microfibres derived from rope, which totalled 1937 individual fragments.

Coming in second at 1779 was microplastic from nurdles and pellets, followed by 1021 small soft identified plastic items larger than 5mm and 728 which were soft.

Unsurprisingly, plastic dominated the list with foam, masks and gloves, tennis balls, bottles, bags, lids, fishing line, cigarette butts and food wrappers all collected.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley urged Australians to make sure their plastic was recycled and did not end up in the ocean.

“We have made waste and recycling a national priority and it is one that requires us all to get involved,” she said.

“Industry is certainly stepping up at the same time and innovative technology like the Seabin is another important example.”

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