The Seabin Project: collaborating to bring manufacturing home
Seabin Project started with a passion for the ocean and the realisation that human over-consumption and waste mismanagement was killing our oceans. This is how Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski, two avid water lovers, created the Seabin—an innovative product designed to collect trash, oil, fuel and detergents.
According to CEO and Co-Founder of the Seabin Project, Pete Ceglinski, “The idea was that if we have rubbish bins on land, why not in the water?”
“Myself and Andrew teamed up in 2013. I met Andrew while I was a boat builder, working on yachts for the America’s Cup. Andrew had the idea for the Seabin, but didn’t know how to bring it to life. I had been a product designer, creating commercial products from sketch to shelf. So, for me, when Andrew explained his idea, it was one of those lightbulb moments—I could use my design, engineering and marketing skills, while still being out on the water and travelling the world, and have a career with purpose.”
In 2014, Ceglinski quit his job and used his life savings to lease and renovate an old disused furniture restoration factory in Palma Mallorca, Spain. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised $362,000, the first commercial prototype of the Seabin was developed over the next two years, with commercial production starting in May 2018.
“In only 18 months we scaled into 52 countries with 860 units. The global Seabin fleet now collects 3.6 tonnes of litter a day, and filters over 500 million litres of water per day,” said Ceglinski.
How the Seabin Works
The Seabin moves up and down with the range of tide collecting all floating rubbish. Water is sucked in from the surface and passes through a catch bag inside the Seabin, with a submersible water pump capable of displacing 25,000 litres per hour, plugged directly into 110/22V outlet. The water is then pumped back into the marina, leaving litter and debris trapped in the catch bag to be disposed of properly.
Each Seabin can catch an estimated 3.9kg of floating debris per day, or 1.4 tonnes per year (depending on weather and debris volumes), including micro plastics down to 2mm. To put these figures into perspective, this is the equivalent of 90,000 plastic bags, 35,700 disposable cups, 16,500 plastic bottles, and 166,500 plastic utensils per year.
Not surprisingly then, the Seabin has taken out several big-name awards. In 2018, the product was recognised by Time Magazine in their Top 50 Inventions of Year, and Good Design Australia just named the Seabin as one of the Top 10 Designs of the Decade.
Collaboration Fast-Tracks Success
According to Ceglinski, collaboration was key, particularly early-on in the company’s journey. “Seabin is the third reinvention of myself—I went from designing products, to building boats for high-end racing yacht teams, to Seabin. So I didn’t want to have to reinvent the wheel too much with the Seabin Project, and we literally had to sell products to stay alive. That’s why we established joint ventures and found partners straight away.”
“We partnered with a marina manufacturer to scale-up. The marina manufacturer was looking for a way to enter a new market that, traditionally, had been closed off to competition; for them, Seabin was a way into that market. We used the marina manufacturer’s existing sales and distribution networks. That’s how we were able to scale-up without being out of pocket. As a result, we now have 32 sales and commission based staff looking after 52 countries.”
“Collaboration is extremely important. No business wants to have to reinvent itself too many times. We specialise in design and manufacturing, not sales and distribution. So by collaborating with a partner who did specialise in this area, we were able to fast-track our success—to exponentially scale our success. Collaboration also helps mitigate the risk of failure. If you can collaborate with a partner, you don’t need to overreach and take on too much risk yourself.”
Bringing Manufacturing Home
The Seabin Project has partnered with Brisbane-based Evolve Group for the manufacture and production of their new Seabin 6.0.
“Our collaboration with Evolve Group will see us switch to injection moulding, reduce the amount of steel in Seabins by up to 70 per cent, and add sensor capabilities. These changes will increase the efficiency of our product, lower our carbon footprint, and increase our gross margins.”
“We’re also keen to re-shore our manufacturing from Europe from Australia. We don’t want to send everything offshore; we want to create local jobs. Manufacturing in Australia is cost competitive, particularly in terms of quality control, clear lines of communications and reliability. Manufacturing in Australia, by Australians, also offers added benefits like R&D incentives and innovation grants.”
The Seabin Project estimates it currently holds only 0.1% of the potential market for Seabins globally, with shorelines worldwide having capacity for 600,000 Seabin units – or a potential sales opportunity worth $2.4 billion.
To help tap into this opportunity, the Seabin Project launched an equity raising campaign in late February. With a target of $3 million, the campaign raised a staggering $1 million in just four days.
According to Ceglinski, “The minimum buy-in is $250 and, as it’s an equity raising campaign, investors become shareholders. The more shareholders we can get, the bigger the voice we will have when speaking with decision makers like local, state and federal governments, which are our near future clients. Our goal is to secure government contracts. So the more people who can lobby for our solutions, the better it is for our shareholders, and our oceans.”