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Startup run by sailors and surfers has devised a bubble barrier to curb plastic pollution


Global Goals & Global Society
Startup run by sailors and surfers has devised a bubble barrier to curb plastic pollution


With a little assistance from bubbles, a Dutch firm founded by sailors and surfers has developed a method of stopping waste in its tracks.


The bubbles serve to push the waste towards the shore so that it can be collected through a catchment system that collects and compresses the debris


In the Netherlands, the low-fi pollution solution has shown to be unexpectedly effective. Now, the technology will spread throughout the rest of Europe.


The proliferation of microplastics has been giving rise, for years, to islands of waste, floating in the middle of the oceans. It is difficult to reach them, but something can be done in nearby environments that are also affected, as is the case in the Netherlands. Among the most imaginative solutions is that of a Dutch startup run by sailors and surfers inspired by something as fragile as a bubble. The startup has devised a bubble barrier that manages to curb plastic pollution, thus filtering garbage dry before it reaches the sea. This barrier works as a natural filter in much the same way that coral reefs act as a boundary between different parts of the sea. The good news is that the new technology will begin to be implemented in other parts of Europe.


How does it work?


The Great Bubble Barrier works by deploying a perforated tube in riverbeds to create a curtain of bubbles that serves to push waste towards the shore so that it can be collected through a catchment system that collects and compresses the waste.


The first bubble barrier was installed in in 2019 in a waterway in Amsterdam. In the summer of 2022, a second one was installed at the mouth of the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine) river in Katwijk, western Netherlands, after citizens raised complaints about river pollution. Riverbeds are the 'highways' by which pollution of all kinds reaches the sea, so they need to be kept clean of any toxins.


Healing bubbles


Bubble filters are created by an air compressor that runs on renewable electricity. It pumps air into the riverbed tube, which causes bubbles to lift plastics to the surface. The very flow of the channels causes the plastics to be directed into the collection system so that they can then be removed.


The system operates year-round, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to eliminating pollution, it allows aquatic life and river traffic to pass unhindered. For this reason, similar bubble barriers are to be installed in Portugal and Germany.

For the time being, the system installed in Amsterdam prevents 8,000 pieces of plastic from reaching the North Sea every month. But there are other places in need of intervention. The Mediterranean Sea is becoming a dangerous plastic trap, reaching record levels of pollution by these microplastics. Bubble barriers could be a solution in the short term.


The basic condition is that even smaller projects like these receive enough attention and funding to be applied in different regions of the world or to further expand their approach. In this way, not only will more and more sustainable innovations be promoted to solve the world's problems, but work will also be done to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.






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