INTERVIEW // PETE CEGLINSKI - FOUNDER OF THE SEABIN PROJECT
Welcome to Compass Studio's second instalment of our 'Explore More' series where we dig into the stories and inspirations of those people that are conquering uncharted grounds right now - whether physical, environmental or social, in the hope of spreading the good further.
Meet Pete Ceglinski, the Aussie surfer who in 2015 successfully crowdfunded an invention designed to rid our waterways of rubbish. The Seabin Project went viral and has quickly become one of the most environmentally promising ways of turning the tide in our planet's war against plastics.
Tell us about your background – are you are natural-born inventor or was The Seabin Project a one-off lightbulb moment?
I’m not sure that I’m a natural born inventor, but we grew up on 30 acres of rainforest and farmland in the hills of Byron, without a lot of money. Dad is a timber cutter and had a workshop behind the house that he used to fix his machinery, weld things up, build things and create new items with his blacksmith forge, because he could not afford to buy all the tools that he needed to work in the forest. I think growing up with this exposure has definitely had a lot of influence on me; it created an intense curiosity to understand how things work, which has helped a lot with the Seabin Project.
Tell us a bit more The Seabin Project. How would you explain it if you were describing it to a mate?
It’s a rubbish bin that lives in the water of marinas and collects floating plastics, bottles, bags, oil, fuel and micro-plastics down to 2mm in size.
The Seabin Project has evolved into much more than being just a product though. My inspiration has always been the brand Patagonia, because they have a flexible workplace, are innovative, independent, respected, and they have always done more than what was ever expected or needed. Right now our business activities are 50% for profit and 50% not for profit. The reason for this is that we are in a unique situation where we have innovative technology to capture debris efficiently, but at the end of the day, Seabin’s are not the solution. Education, Science, Research and Community is the real solution, and so we have built this into our business model with growing success.
How did it come about? Where were you when you thought of the idea?
My Co Founder, Andrew Turton, had the idea and he told me about it five years ago when we were in Miami for a sailing regatta. I have a background in Product Design and have commercialised sketch to shelf products previously, so I said... let's do it, 50/50, and then we made it happen. During this time it was my second career as a performance boat builder for America's Cup teams, so by chance I was surrounded by the sea! It was a real light bulb moment where I could make a positive impact on the environment, be innovative, engineer, and be creative with the marketing and content creation.
What is your long-term vision for The Seabin Project?
To live in a world without Seabins. However… it’s going to take a while to get to this point though.
The steps we are taking to get to this goal are:
Innovative and practical new technologies with the aim to get off the dock and into open waters
Creation of mandatory legislation to address the floating debris in public waterways
Inclusion of ocean plastic/mismanaged waste lessons into school curriculums
Ramped up Science and Research projects
Working with industry to efficiently find and implement solutions
Comprehensive educational programs interacting with the Seabin Technology
Positive and inspiring content creation for Seabin marketing
Collaborations with other innovators to develop solutions
How has it been received to date - both globally and locally?
It’s been absolutely amazing the attention that the Seabin Project has received, the timing was perfect, and to be honest – it's a little overwhelming most of the time. Currently we have a Seabin sales request sheet from our website with over 170 countries wanting to purchase Seabin’s for their marinas. One of the biggest challenges currently is building a sales and distribution network to meet this demand in a timely and effective manner. It's like we have created a monster with the project and we are working hard just to keep it under control. It’s a challenging but fun ride!
What has been your biggest hurdle to date?
The most difficult hurdles have been to raise USD$367K via crowdfunding with a product which 98% of the population cannot buy. Creating an international Seabin team, global business and worldwide manufacturing, sales and distribution network with zero business background or experience was also quite a sizeable hurdle at times too!
What are your plans for The Project in the next twelve months?
See the widespread adoptions of Seabins! Our top priority is to get Seabins into marinas worldwide, we do not have a sustainable income right now as it's been a two year development period and we are all tired of working for minimum wage with restricted resources. It’s very character building though!
How can the community help make this happen?
The community can help a lot. In fact if the community does not help we will never see the end of ocean plastics and mismanaged waste. What we need is to refuse single use plastics, practice better recycling practices, reuse what we can and reduce our consumerism. Picking up street litter makes a big difference also.
Social media can be extremely deceiving these days on how success is achieved or measured. Social media seems only to portray the amazing milestones of success stories, it does not show the 3 years of contract negotiations, sleepless nights, creditors emails, and all the other hard stuff that comes with getting a start up off the ground.
If the world needs more of just one thing, what’s that?
More ownership or responsibility for our own actions. It will be an extremely slow process for change if we cannot stop blaming others for our own actions.
If you could un-do just one thing on an environmental level, what would it be?
I would undo our “throw away” culture. Plastics are amazing when you think about it. Plastic has shaped the very world we live in. The issue, in my opinion is that we are only just understanding what an advanced material it is and seeing the repercussions of our actions because of this.
If someone had an idea or an invention that they were yet to launch, what advice would you give them for making it happen?
Save some money, make a plan and quit your day job. If you don’t have the cash or a plan to pursue your dream it won't happen and you will end up back at the day job.
Be yourself and be honest, if you’re not honest in who you are, people will see through this and then you lose credibility. If you’re a start-up, tell your start-up story and do not try and paint a bigger picture of your current situation. With social media and the internet these days, I think it's crucial to tell a honest story.
Ask loads of questions and research as much as you can. Countless times I have been in meetings with high level executives and they may use some terminology I have no idea about, so I simply asked what they mean. When I am going through legal documentation, I consult Google all the time, and learn exactly what these lawyers are talking about.
Understand your weaknesses and then find solutions. I had no business experience so I found business partners with extensive business experience and on-boarded them.
Understand that things won't happen overnight and that hard work, perseverance, honesty and a positive attitude is what makes things happen. Social media can be extremely deceiving these days on how success is achieved or measured. Social media seems only to portray the amazing milestones of success stories, it does not show the 3 years of contract negotiations, sleepless nights, creditors emails, and all the other hard stuff that comes with getting a start up off the ground.