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Amsterdam Tests ‘Bubble Barrier’ to Clean River

View of the "The Bubble Barrier" in Amsterdam, Netherlands October 31, 2019.
View of the "The Bubble Barrier" in Amsterdam, Netherlands October 31, 2019.
Amsterdam Tests ‘Bubble Barrier’ to Clean River
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Amsterdam is testing a “bubble barrier” to help remove plastic from the city’s waterways.

The project is called the Great Bubble Barrier. The system aims to capture waste beneath the surface of the water. The city launched the effort in November. The non-profit group supporting the project hopes it can be used in other places if successful.

Francis Zoet is the technical director of the Great Bubble Barrier project. She told Reuters, “A bubble barrier is basically a tube that we place on the bottom of the river or canal, that has holes in it and we press air through it; that creates a bubble curtain.”

The tube lies diagonally across the canal. The bubbles work with the flow of water in the canal to float the waste and then move it into a collector on the side.

The bubbles do not interfere with passing boats. They also do not cause a major problem for fish or birds.

Amsterdam already has four boats that collect about 42,000 kilograms of plastic a year. But the boats can only pick up the waste on the surface. They miss some smaller pieces altogether.

Roy Leysner is with Waternet, part of the local water authority that is paying for the project with the City of Amsterdam. He told Reuters, “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.”

The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany estimates that rivers carry up to 4 million metric tons of plastic into the world’s oceans each year.

Another Dutch group has also launched a system to collect surface-level river waste using floating barriers.

Zoet of the Amsterdam project said the two ideas work well together. She said, “We support basically every initiative that is focused on reducing the plastic soup.”

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Toby Sterling reported this story for the Reuters news service. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.


Words in This Story

authority –n. people having powers to make decisions and enforce rules and laws

eventually –adv. at an unspecified later time; in the end

initiative –n. a plan or program that is intended to solve a problem

focus(ed) –v. to direct or cause to direct at