The Great Bubble Barrier

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Too much of the waste that our society produces ends up in the water, where it damages marine and human life. This problem is recognized more and more, both by the general public, municipalities, government and the European Union.

We believe plastic waste can be caught before it reaches the oceans. The current solutions that stop waste in the rivers have two major drawbacks; they block ship traffic and/or hinder fish
movement. We searched for an elegant solution that blocks waste in the river, but also allows the passage of fish and ships. And we arrived at a very simple idea; a barrier of bubbles.

By placing two bubble barriers (or air screens) diagonally, we block plastics from moving downstream, and make clever use of the current of the river to direct the waste to the banks. We create a bubble barrier by pumping air through a tube with holes, placed on the bottom of the river. The upward current that the bubbles generate brings the waste to the surface, and the turbulence stops the waste from flowing downstream. The waste gathers on the side of the river, where it can easily be collected with for example a conveyor belt. The fish slalom allows fish to pass the barrier unobstructed. Our system also brings aeration to the water, increasing oxygen levels and improving the health of the ecosystem. With these aspects the Great Bubble Barrier meets all the important conditions: it barely hinders ship traffic, fish movement and the natural workings of the delta.

The Great Bubble Barrier offers a solution for different problem owners: we can help governments meet changing regulation on waste management in waterways, but also help cities fight plastic problems in their waters, and help waterboards to save on their cleanups after high water.

The fact that The Great Bubble Barrier is based on existing technology makes it easily applicable. And the best thing is: The Great Bubble Barrier can be applied from large rivers to the smal canals. The visual attractiveness of the bubble barrier makes it easy to attract spectators and increase awareness about the problems posed by the plastic soup.

Our goal is to realize the Great Bubble Barrier at smart locations, to stop as much plastic as possible in its way to the oceans.

July 1st 2016 The Great Bubble Barrier won the first prize in the Plastic Free Rivers Makathon organized by PWN and and Rijkswaterstaat. After a successful pilot in the Deltares lab this spring, this autumn a pilot will run in the IJssel near Kampen.

Pilot video:

The Great Bubble Barrier - Pilot Deltares 2017 preview

Green Challenge video:

Meet our finalist: The Great Bubble Barrier

What is the goal of the project?

Every day, a plastic bag, propelled by the wind, will end up in the water. Trash collects in the canals and rivers of cities around the world. Canals and rivers that lead to the oceans, with nothing in their way to stop the trash they carry. The Great Bubble Barrier offers a way to stop plastic waste in the rivers and canals without blocking the passage for ships and fish.

What is the result of the project?

The Great Bubble Barrier can be applied in every city with water, to help fight plastic pollution. For the city of Amsterdam at multiple sites are possible, where the waste flowing from the canals into the IJ can be blocked. The Great Bubble Barrier can provide a visually attractive barrier to stop and collect the waste, and can thereby serve as a great tool to inform and educate visitors about the problems of plastic pollution, and what people can do about the issue themselves.

Who initiated the project and which organizations are involved?

The Great Bubble Barrier is a young organisation, founded by Anne Marieke Eveleens, Saskia Studer, Philip Ehrhorn and Francis Zoet. The idea won first place in the Plastic Free Rivers Makathon organized by Rijkswaterstaat and PWN. This prize consisted of a pilot at the lab of Deltares, and an outdoor pilot in the IJssel at Kampen. The pilot was executed in november with Rijkswaterstaat, Deltares and the combination BAM/vd Herik as partners.

What is the next step?

In november 2017 we executed a pilot in the river IJssel with Rijkswaterstaat, Deltares and BAM/vdHerik. We recently published our results: The Great Bubble Barrier directed 80-98% of all testmaterial to the banks of the river. A great success!

Our next step is to realize a permanent Bubble Barrier. Will it be in your river or city?

5 People think this is smart


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Francis Zoet's picture
Francis Zoet

Hi Jim and Gaelan,
Thank you very much for your kind words! Sorry for the late reply, but we love it!
Thank you very much!

Jim Bowes's picture
Jim Bowes

Bravo! It's one of those ideas where you wish you would have thought of that. I am standing on my desk applauding you loudly! Well done! Fantastic!

Gaelan Goodfellow's picture
Gaelan Goodfellow

Hi Guys, I think this is a Great idea, well done!


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