Robot Marine Trashpickers, Seabin Project, Climate Accountability Institute, Pick Up Trash on Your Vacation? You Betcha!

by | Jun 24, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Robot marine trashpickers, plus the Seabin Project. The Climate Accountability Institute, and pick up trash on your vacation? You betcha!



While the impacts of polluting the seas were reasonably understood by the end of the 1980s, it wasn’t until 2016 that solutions to address the problem really took off.

A recent Bloomberg green article described how funding soared in 2014 when the European Union launched research programs, pumping over $97 Billion into them. About half of the ocean projects available today are government-funded, while a third are paid for through collaborations between nonprofit organizations, the public and companies, according to the paper.  

Why does this matter to us? Because ocean pollution contributes to loss of marine biodiversity, and maintaining all biodiversity is a major key in combating climate change.

Solutions invented over the past few years include sea garbage bins, giant plastic-collecting barriers and a marine drone that collects floating garbage through a wide opening that mimics the mouths of whale sharks.

There’s also BeachBot, a garbage-collecting rover that picks up small litter like cigarette butts, single-use cutlery or plastic bottle caps from beaches. Creators Martijn Lukaart and Edwin Bos sought the help of students at University of Technology Delft in the Netherlands to develop an algorithm which teaches the robot to distinguish between types of trash. 

“Behavior needs to change and our goal is to make people interact and engage with the robot to make it smarter, but also to learn about the impact of litter themselves,” Bos said. He added, “It’s nice to develop a robot solution, but that’s not the solution to the wider problem,” 

DEEPER DIVE: Bloomberg Green, SeaBin Project, The Ocean Cleanup, WasteShark, Horizon2020


In our last story, we talked about state-of-the-art technology designed to save us from our disgusting habit of littering in the ocean. This story isn’t about state-of-the-art. In fact, it’s somewhat low-tech.  It’s about two guys who finally realized that human over-consumption and waste mismanagement was killing our oceans. Andrew “Turtle” Turton and Peter “Pete” Ceglinski are boat builders. Their innovation came from one line of inspiration: ““If we can have rubbish bins on land then why not have them in the water?”

 And so Seabin was born. It’s an ingeniously simple device that collects trash, petroleum based fuels and even detergents in and around marinas and harbors. Their company launched in 2014 and in 2016, they raised over $250K in crowd funding to take their Seabin from prototype to reality. In May of 2018, the first Seabins were shipped. A year later, 394 had been delivered and installed in marinas around the world. By August of 2019, over 700 had been installed in over 50 countries.

Despite the lost year of the COVID pandemic, almost 900 seabins have been sold. On average, they are capturing over 3,600 kgs or almost 8,000 pounds of stuff daily. Since the first one was sold, Seabins have cleared close to 4.4 million pounds of sea trash, oil and detergents from marinas.

P.S. There’s a great 30-minute documentary on YouTube that describes the process. Well worth the watch.

DEEPER DIVE: SeaBin Project, YouTube, Seabin Awards


Most people value accountability in their own lives as well as in politics and business. With respect to climate change, however, accountability is largely missing from the conversation. That’s the theory behind the founding of the Climate Accountability Institute.

And that’s also why CAI matters to us.

You see, the scientific community has known since the late 1970s that the world was on the path to dangerous anthropogenic interference (DAI) with the climate system. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted in 1992, was intended to take us off that path, and towards a stable future climate, one that did not threaten global health, well-being, and prosperity.

The thing is climate change affects something we take for granted–the civil and human rights associated with a stable climate regime. If climate change accelerates, those civil and human rights could be threatened by climate-destabilizing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Basically, the Climate Accountability Institute is saying, “It’s not anti-primary carbon producers to be pro-save the climate.” And by Carbon Majors, they mean oil, gas and coal companies. Instead their strategy is to leverage accountability by carbon producers into using their skills, capital, and resources to aid rather than oppose the transition to a low-carbon or zero-carbon energy future. The idea co-opt Big Oil and Coal the way Big Tobacco was finally co-opted into doing the right thing.

How do they do it? Massive peer pressure. Check out what CAI calls its Carbon Majors chart. It’s an animated chart detailing how much carbon, methane and other GHG emissions the top 12 carbon majors have dumped into the atmosphere between 1979 and 2017.

The Climate Accountability Institute’s vision is for a world protected from the social, economic, and environmental damages of climate change.

DEEPER DIVE:  CAI, Carbon Majors


24-year-old Stefani Shamrowicz had over a month in vacation time built up with her job at a college campus recreation center. So she did what anyone in their 20s would do with their vacation time: spend the entire month picking up trash across the country!

Shamrowicz lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, and got the idea to go on litter patrol after Earth Day, when she had a month off from work. During her journey, she picked up more than 125 bags of trash that contained over 1,600 gallons of garbage. She estimates that 80 percent of the trash she picked up was plastic bottles, with face masks also a common sight.

She’s now driven over 70 hours through Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York—cleaning up everything from pee-filled bottles to lawn ornaments. Collecting anywhere from one to 16 bags at a time, Stefani’s been discouraged when she felt she wasn’t doing enough.

“There was a place that had an ocean of trash and I pushed out four bags, but then I broke down because I realized how much there was and it felt like four bags didn’t do anything,” she said. 

And why does Stephanie’s story matter to us? In her own words, “I’m not going to be able to pick up everything, but if everyone starts picking up some on walks or runs, that’s where the magic is.” This reminds of the saying someone just told us: A little and often.