The Great Bubble Barrier: Dutch start-up launch bubble screen that intercepts plastics in Amsterdam canals

The Great Bubble Barrier, a device that intercepts plastics in rivers, has been launched in Amsterdam in a bid to permanently decrease the amount of plastics entering the oceans.

The bubble barrier is a long, perforated tube running diagonally for 60 metres across the bottom of the waterway, removing plastic from Amsterdam’s canals and therefore preventing them from flowing through to the river IJ and the North Sea.

While The Great Bubble Barrier forms a barrier for plastics, it is wildlife-friendly allowing fish and wildlife to easily pass.

By pumping air through a tube with holes in it, a bubble barrier appears. This creates an upwards thrust, which brings waste to the surface of the water. By placing it diagonally in the waterway, the barrier uses the natural current to guide the plastic to the catchment system at the riverside. Both ships and fish can pass the Bubble Barrier, but plastic will be stopped.

The first Bubble Barrier was installed in Westerdok, one of the points where the water flows from the canals of Amsterdam into the IJ. The IJ flows into the North Sea Canal and this leads directly to the North Sea.The Bubble Barrier in the Westerdok is strategically placed to be able to stop as much of the outflow of plastic from Amsterdam’s city centre as possible.

The invention came to life around four years ago when Dutch students Saskia Studer, Anne Marieke Eveleens and Francis Zoet were in a bar and were mesmerised by the bubbles of a beer glass in a bar and thought they could do something with the concept of bubbles and cleaning up the waterways.

The women soon joined forces with Philip Ehrhorn, a German naval architect and ocean engineer, who had the same idea. After he found out about the plans of the three Dutch girls, they decided to join forces in Amsterdam.

Philip Ehrhorn said: “We are going to monitor all waste and make the data publicly available. Making visible what is in the water here. The Bubbles Barrier is a great tool to raise awareness for the problem.”

The Great Bubble Barrier, whose Westerdok model will remain until 2021, is hoping to take their bubble concept to different rivers and canals in cities, industrial areas and ports throughout the Netherlands, as well as Europe and Asia.

The Great Bubble Barrier

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at



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