Resources for Trapping Trash

In an ideal world, we would have a completely waste literate community, all working under a perfectly circular economy. But even then, some of our waste would likely end up as litter. For example, wind blows plastic trash out of the garbage bin and people litter accidentally. To prevent this litter from polluting our aquatic ecosystems, we believe trash traps in storm drains and in waterways are helpful mitigation devices!

We work with PortsToronto to capture litter in Seabins on the Toronto Harbour. We also are a partner of the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup, where our role is to procure protocols and tools for quantifying and characterizing the litter we divert from our Great Lakes network. We have created the resources below for our local projects and partners across the Great Lakes but encourage anyone interested in trash traps to use them as they can be applicable across the world.

Below, we have provided resources for a simple daily quantification of litter, as well as for a more sporadic deeper dive analysis that quantifies and characterizes macro- and micro- litter captured by Seabins. Together, they allow us to report how much mass of anthropogenic debris we divert in total, and the types of macro- and micro- debris we are capturing at each location. Overall, this measures our individual and collective impacts as well as informs future policies aimed at reducing plastic pollution. Note, these resources were created with and for Seabins, but are applicable to other trash traps.

Daily Seabin Waste Characterization Protocol

It is empowering to quantify the amount of litter you are diverting from aquatic ecosystems. We have created a quick and easy daily protocol to collect data while emptying your Seabin. Below, you can find a preview of the protocol. You can also watch our video tutorial.

Daily Seabin Protocol Video Tutorial

Click here to download the Daily Seabin Waste Characterization Protocol

For your daily data collection, you have two options for how to record your data: using an app or a paper datasheet.

Data Trapper App:

Instead of printing datasheets each time you empty your Seabins, we have created a free app for you to easily submit your data! The app is compatible with Android and Apple devices. Below we have included the link to download the app with instructions, and a video tutorial on how to use it.  

For IOS devices: 

– You can download the app through the App store. Just head to the search bar and type in Data Trapper to install it.

For Android devices: 

– You can download the app through the Google Play store. You just need to search for Data Trapper or “Data Trapper” and then download it.  

Printable Datasheet:

If you choose to use the paper datasheet, please fill them out daily and email a copy to

Click here to download the Daily Seabin Waste Characterization Datasheets

If you would like to look at the data you have collected over the season or for any time period, just email us at so we can send it over to you.

A Deeper Dive – Characterizing What You Trap

We recommend that you carry out a more intensive analysis of the litter collected by your Seabins between five and ten times a season. Ideally, one or two of these deeper dives is carried out following a rain event, as this will give us data on how litter accumulates in different weather conditions. Following this protocol will help us gain a better understanding of the amount of debris by count, characterize the types of trash collected, and assess how they vary by location. In this section you will find a standardized protocol, datasheets, and a waste characterization video tutorial.

Click here to download the Seabin Waste Characterization Protocol

Click here to download the Seabin Waste Characterization Datasheets

Curious to know more about the development of the waste characterization protocol? Here we have included a presentation which discusses:

1. The two protocols we have created.

2. The accuracy and representativeness of our waste characterization protocol.

3. If we can use our daily waste characterization protocol to extrapolate the total weight of anthropogenic debris and count of small anthropogenic debris captured and diverted.

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