A new ocean-cleaning machine installed at Tutukaka Marina will suck up plastic litter floating in the water in a quest to clear the oceans of plastic debris.

The Seabin is the first in Northland and the second in New Zealand after one was placed in Auckland's Viaduct marina late last year.

The Seabin is a floating rubbish bin in the water and moves with the tide, collecting floating rubbish by sucking in water and debris from the surface into a catch bag within the bin.

The suction is provided by a submersible water pump capable of displacing 25,000 litres per hour, plugged directly into a nearby 110/220-volt outlet.

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The water passes back into the marina, leaving litter and debris trapped in the catch bag.

Yesterday at the official launch Huanui College student Pippa Benton said the Seabin was the result of a two-year project and a collaboration between Ocean Spirit, Tutukaka Marina Management and Trust Board, the Interact Club at Huanui College and Whangarei City Rotary Club.

Pippa Benton with the Seabin at Tutukaka Marina. Photo/ John Stone
Pippa Benton with the Seabin at Tutukaka Marina. Photo/ John Stone

Benton was part of the Interact Club, a group sponsored by the Whangarei City Rotary Club where students work on local and humanitarian projects.

A passion for keeping the ocean healthy for future generations drove the 17-year-old to see the idea become a reality after it was mooted by Ocean Spirit co-founder Glenn Edney, based in Tutukaka.

"It started as an idea to get one here and at that stage they were still being developed. But thanks to community involvement and support and the passion to see this to the end has meant the Seabin is here in Tutukaka," Benton said.

Each Seabin can catch an estimated 1.5kg of floating debris per day, depending on weather and debris volumes, including microplastics down to 2mm in size.

And already the Seabin has cleared Tutukaka marina of an motor oil container, plastic water bottles, a plastic straw, strips of plastic, wet wipes and cigarettes butts.

"It means if we are stopping this plastic waste here it isn't getting out to our coastline or the Poor Knights," Benton said.

The data collated from the Tutukaka Seabin would assist in global research into the types and quantities of pollution that is collected in marinas worldwide.

Benton, who hope to go to Auckland university next year to study environmental science, said the Seabin would also aid in education with Ngunguru School students to get involved and see just how much plastic is being cleared from the marina.

The Seabin cost about $6000 with the Interact Club fundraising $1100 towards the project. The balance was made up from a Rotary district grant from Rotary International and funding from The Tutukaka Marina Management Trust.

From left, Rotary's Peter Smith, Huanui College student Pippa Benton, Ocean Spirit cofounder Glen Edney and Tutukaka Marina manager Dylan Lease with the recently installed Seabin at Tutukaka Marina.
From left, Rotary's Peter Smith, Huanui College student Pippa Benton, Ocean Spirit cofounder Glen Edney and Tutukaka Marina manager Dylan Lease with the recently installed Seabin at Tutukaka Marina.

Whangarei City Rotary Club former president Peter Smith said the foresight and energetic approach of the Interact Club had brought the various groups together and lead to the Seabin.

"This project shows we as a community are really serious about looking after our environment," Smith said.

Smith said tourism on Northland's beautiful beaches and coastline was a big earner for the region so keep the ocean clean of plastics was hugely important.

Ocean Spirit's Glenn Edney said while the Seabin was a great tool it was not the solution to clearing the ocean of plastic - everyone had a responsibility.

With 25 years' experience in ocean plastic projects he said it was great to feed off the students' energy and be part of a community project.

"Their optimism was infectious," he said.

Worldwide the three items mostly pulled out of Seabins were cigarette butts, microplastics and food wrappers.

Fish were generally safe from the Seabin and if small bait fish did get sucked in they were easily released.