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How Great Bubble Barrier is keeping plastic out of sea?

In the municipality of Katwijk, the Netherlands, an innovative system called the Bubble Barrier has been implemented

By Ground report
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How Great Bubble Barrier is keeping plastic out of sea?

In the municipality of Katwijk, the Netherlands, an innovative system called the Bubble Barrier has been implemented, in which a "curtain" of air bubbles is placed along a channel to remove plastic debris from the water.

Although the project launched in 2019 is only a small-scale test at the moment, the nonprofit group behind the initiative hopes it can be rolled out elsewhere, if successful.

“The bubble barrier is basically produced by a tube that we place at the bottom of the river or canal, the one with holes and that we press with air; that creates a bubble,” said Francis Zoet, technical director of the Great Bubble Barrier project.

Because the pipe is located diagonally across the channel, the bubbles work like a flow of water in the channel that floats the debris and then transports it to a side collector.

The bubble barrier, developed by the Dutch start-up The Great Bubble Barrier, consists of a bubble curtain, a catchment system and an air supply. The bubble barrier is created by pumping air through a perforated tube that sits at the bottom of the river. This generates an updraft that directs the plastics toward the surface. The bubble curtain prevents plastics from floating down the river and reaching the ocean.

By placing the bubble curtain diagonally across the river, the natural flow of the river will push plastic debris to one side and into the catchment system. The pickup system is placed at the end of the bubble curtain and remains in place regardless of the water level or the wake of passing ships.

The First Bubble Barrier is now fully operational in Katwijk, where concerned citizens had witnessed an increasing amount of plastic pollution flowing through the waterway into the North Sea.

Test and Deploy

In recent years, the Bubble Barrier system has been extensively tested and has been shown to trap plastic particles as small as 1mm and intercept 86 per cent of floating test material in inland waters.

“The Bubble Barrier contributes positively to clean and healthy water. Thanks to the bubble screen, we ensure that plants and animals are protected from plastic pollution and thus contribute to greater biodiversity,” says Waldo von Faber from the Rijnland Water Board.

Great Bubble Barrier, without danger to fauna

One of the considerations in developing the Bubble Barrier was to ensure that its operation would not affect marine life. That's why they made sure the spaces between the bubbles were wide. Therefore, the fish can easily pass the barrier without any problem.

The system also ensures the aeration of the water, which enriches the ecosystem. The developers ensure that their system complies with cleanliness, without harming the fauna and the natural functioning of the delta.

The concept is still in development, but it has already won competitions for environmental ideas in his country. Now, they continue working and waiting for the support to install the first permanent and fully operational bubble barrier.


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