The Great Bubble Barrier from Amsterdam that is saving the waters from plastic
Priya Wadhwa
SME Stories

The Great Bubble Barrier from Amsterdam that is saving the waters from plastic

How air has become the answer to keeping plastic out of water.

When it comes to water, whether it is building houses on it, keeping it from flooding your city or sustainable projects, the Dutch are pretty good. For example, in the United Arab Emirates, the Dutch dredger Van Oord has been a significant force behind the development of The Palm Jumeirah, The World, and Palm Deira, amongst many others. Moreover, aside from a design and dredging application, there is WasteShark, the plastic gobbling aquadrone in Dubai Marina waters – it is also designed by a Dutch firm, RanMarine Technology.

Now, a fast-growing Dutch startup, The Great Bubble Barrier, founded by three women — Francis Zoet, Saskia Studer and Anne Marieke Eveleens — has invented a simple way to remove plastic from deeper waters by using bubbles!

This is one of those inventions that makes many go, why didn’t I think of that? Well, even though it seems easy and simple, it isn’t, as there are many delicate ways in which the process works.

Originally, the project was created to catch waste in Amsterdam’s canals before it reaches the North Sea, as the city has been looking for ways to reduce waste. Hence, the start-up collaborated with both the Amsterdam municipality and the regional water board to launch Great Bubble Barrier.

By using compressed air that is pumped through a long, perforated tube running diagonally for 60 metres across the bottom of the canal, the natural water current helps to push waste to one side of the river or canal.

But, why the bubbles?

Well, as Philip Ehrhorn, co-inventor of the technology, explains, “You can’t put a physical barrier in a canal: it has to be open for wildlife and recreation.” This touches upon a core concept of the idea, as well as the wider trend across the globe that looks for more sustainable, animal-friendly applications that are still efficient and cost-effective.

Of course, the start-up is still in early stages, so it is difficult to show that it is efficient and cost-effective at a large scale, but tests have shown that it can divert more than 80% of flotsam from the Westerdok canal, which seems promising for a project that just passed the proof-of-concept stage.

Ultimately, the hope of the project is to address the plastic waste crisis in the North Sea and oceans across the world, with estimates suggesting that 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the sea across the world every year. With this innovation – which received a €500,000 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge award and other prizes – we are at least one innovative way closer to that becoming a reality. Let’s hope it comes to Dubai and the Middle East soon!