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Surfrider, UVic study sea bin data to determine foam infiltration near North Saanich marina

Sea bins provide ongoing info to help track impact of microplastics on waterways

A pair of floating garbage bins draw debris from the surface of the water in North Saanich Marina and early data shows foam bits remain a key polluter.

The marina, one of four owned by Oak Bay Marine Group, has two sea bins at work in the Saanich Peninsula waters. Surfrider Foundation Vancouver Island launched its sea bin project, Dock the Debris, in November 2020 with funds collected during the inaugural Blue Friday in 2019.

Blue Friday is an initiative by a group of small Canadian-based businesses as an alternative to Black Friday. It reframes one of the busiest sales days of the year with a goal of shifting from overconsumption to diverting consumer dollars to eco-minded companies that pledge to donate a percentage of sales for that day.

A record 34 Vancouver Island businesses offered a portion of the day’s take for Blue Friday on Nov. 26. Shooting for $12,000 for Surfrider Pacific to replace the EPS foam dock at First Street Marina in Tofino, the initiative raised a whopping $40,183. The organization is still determining where excess funds will go.

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The sea bins though, cost roughly $8,000 each. The organization started with North Saanich Marina because leadership there had already started its own environmental initiative – installing its first sea bin, explained Sally McIntyre, chair of the local Surfrider group. Through the Dock the Debris collaboration with the University of Victoria, students in social sciences aided in four data collections from mid-spring through summer.

The first bin, installed by marina staff on the north dock, showed a daily average of 923 fragments of foam per day and an annual average of 2,048,015. The lowest day collected was 628 fragments and the highest 14,784.

The second bin, also on the north dock and installed by Surfrider and the Blue Friday sponsors, showed a daily average of 5,611 fragments and an annual average of 336,895. The lowest day was 206 and the highest 1,803 fragments.

Early data is variable due to weather conditions, current and bin placement, McIntyre stressed. In the fall, she worked with two more UVic students, with a newer data report expected later this month.

More reports will give a more complete daily and annual average of how much-expanded polystyrene foam beads the sea bins have pulled from the marine environment of North Saanich Marina, McIntyre said.

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They’d also like to learn more about the impact microplastics have on microscopic life.

“We’re not measuring the impact on those species but you can picture what all that can do when it’s floating around and a free lunch,” McIntyre said.

For more information about Surfrider Foundation Vancouver Island’s Dock the Debris project at

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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