Joint media release: Defence removes tonnes of waste from Sydney Harbour

13 January 2022

The Hon Melissa Price MP, Minister for Defence Industry, Minister for Science and Technology
The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
The Hon Dave Sharma MP, Member for Wentworth

​​​​New Australian technology supported by the Morrison Government is helping to clean Sydney Harbour and show how we can get more plastic and other pollution out of our waterways.

Trials of new Seabin Smart Technology at Sydney Harbour Defence sites have removed 2,920kg of plastic, fuels and detergents from Sydney Harbour in the past 12 months and plans are now underway to expand the technology.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley visited Garden Island where the Seabin trial has been removing 140kg of waste per week, including one item of plastic every 40 seconds.

Minister for Defence Industry and Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price said the Defence trial had exceeded all expectations and that three permanent units 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,” Minister Price said.
“This is Australian technology which costs as little as $1 a day to run and which can have huge dividends for the environment.”

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the one-year trial involving Defence and its industry partners, Veolia Environmental Services, was another example of the Morrison Government’s commitment to tackling waste and recycling.

“As people spend time outdoors and on our waterways at this time of year, it is a great time to focus on the role we can all play in protecting our environment,” Minister Ley said.

“We can’t keep putting plastic in our oceans and it starts by getting our waste into the recycling bin where it belongs.

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

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

Member for Wentworth David Sharma said that the project would have benefits for beaches across the Harbour’s east and that the success of the trial on Sydney Harbour would help focus all Australians on the importance of keeping waterways clean.

“Sydney Harbour is one of the world’s great waterways and this technology is an important sign of our commitment to keeping it that way,” Mr Sharma said.

“Defence has always been a part of the Harbour landscape both through current sites like Garden Island and our former Defence Sites now managed through the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust.”


Plastic items collected over a two-week period:

Category Count
Microfibres (plastic fibres derived from rope) 1937
Microplastics <5mm (incl. pellets, nurdles) 1779
Unidentified plastic items – soft >5mm 1021
Unidentified plastic items – hard >5mm 728
Foam pieces 293
Soft plastic food packaging/wrappers 135
Fishing line  101
Cigarette butts 34
Plastic straws 33
Plastic lids 31
Hard plastic food packaging (cups etc.) 23
Plastic bags 23
Plastic bottles 14
Ropes  12
Plastic lollipop/cotton bud sticks 9
Tape 9
Rubber 9
Plastic utensils 2
Tennis ball/toy ball 2
Face mask/gloves  2
Fishing gear (floats, lures etc.)  1
TOTAL 6198