Efforts across the world to remove plastic from our oceans and rivers are starting to make a difference, as well as provide inspiration for innovative solutions.
A Dutch company has come up with a system that does not focus on the plastic on the surface of the water, but rather that which has sadly sunk to the bottom or rivers and canals.
The Great Bubble Barrier consists of a long hose with many holes in it which is tethered at the bottom of a canal. Compressed air is pushed through the pipe, which produces a wall of bubbles which then get trapped inside or on plastic, forcing it to surface. Systems on the surface are then used to scoop up the debris.
The system is believed to be able to retrieve 86 percent of the plastic junk that has sunk.
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Francis Zoet, the Great Bubble Barrier project’s technical director, told Reuters that because the tube lies diagonally across the canal, the bubbles work with the flow of water in the canal to float the waste to the surface without interfering with passing boats, or posing an obstacle for fish or birds.
The air bubbles also oxygenate the water, which also reduces the growth of toxic algae and improves the quality of water for aquatic animals.
Amsterdam is testing the system and hopes to expand it elsewhere in efforts to clean up canals, and possibly rivers at a later stage.
“What people don’t realise is that every piece of plastic which falls into the water in the canals is eventually flowing out to the North Sea. We want to prevent that,” said Roy Leysner of Waternet, part of the local water authority which is funding the project together with the City of Amsterdam.