Sunday, April 14, 2024

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A Bubble Barrier Is Protecting the Oceans in Amsterdam

The Amsterdam Westerdok canal has a very unique way of preventing plastic from ending up in the ocean. It uses a “Bubble Barrier” that helps direct river waste to a catchment system.

According to the lead engineer, this system is able to prevent 86% of the waste from reaching the ocean. And most surprisingly, it only took their team five hours to install in 2019.

Most importantly, it doesn’t disrupt aquatic life. Unlike large nets that are placed within rivers that prevent fish from moving, they can safely pass through the bubbles.

There’s no downside here.

How Does it Work?

The bubble barrier consists of air compressors that send air throughout a tube. However, the tube has been perforated (tiny holes throughout) which causes the bubbles to form.

These bubbles are strong enough to redirect waste within the river to a nearby containment system.

While the barrier is capable of redirecting incredibly small pieces of plastic (as small as 1 millimeter), the limiting factor is actually the waste storage unit. Thus, small pieces of plastic can still get by.

You might be wondering what powers the entire system.

Fear not, it is not fossil fuels. Instead, air compressors utilize renewable energy sources to generate bubbles. Therefore, it checks all of the boxes, no emissions, no impact on aquatic life, and prevents plastic from entering the ocean.

The only problem with the system are boats. While the bubble barrier does not impact them at all, the boats that pass through it can allow the plastic to follow along. Thus the less active boats are on the river, the less that gets through.

Can This Be Done Outside of Amsterdam?

Absolutely! This technology can exist outside of Amsterdam. And the good news is that there are already plans in place to do it.

It is currently in the planning stages but will be utilized throughout the Netherlands. This design will even branch out into other countries like Portugal and Indonesia.

However, the amount of energy necessary to create a bubble barrier depends on the current of the river, thus, different areas may require more energy and more intense bubbles to get similar results.

Ultimately, the success rate of the technology depends on the location.

Why Is This A Big Deal?

Ever wonder where all of the plastic in the ocean comes from?

It comes from rivers, or at least 70 to 80% of it does, according to a study. The other 20 to 30% comes from actual marine sources like fishing materials or waste from public beaches.

Being able to prevent 70 to 80% of plastic waste from entering the ocean is a huge deal.

If this technology becomes mainstream, it could revolutionize the industry. But, more importantly, it can help keep our oceans safe. And as a result, that keeps us safe.

As the plastic deteriorates within the ocean, fish eat them. Those same fish are eventually eaten by humans. Thus, we are ingesting microplastics into our bodies. The health risks are still unknown.

You can do your part by making sure to properly dispose of waste. That way, it never ends up in rivers.

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Robert Giaquinto

Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.

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