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A new invention to fight plastic pollution

China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-11 09:53

AMSTERDAM - An invention to tackle canal plastics pollution was one of the highlights of the recent Amsterdam International Water Week.

The instrument, dubbed "the Great Bubble Barrier", is a bubble screen that will remove plastic trash from the canals and therefore prevent it from flowing through to the river IJ and the North Sea. It was made possible by an Amsterdam startup, The Great Bubble Barrier, on behalf of the regional water board and the municipality of Amsterdam.

The first bubbles of the Barrier were visible on Thursday in the Westerdok Canal. A choir sang about bubbles and tens of guests drank alcohol-free bubbles to celebrate the opening.

"This is a very important step in reducing the amount of plastic in the oceans," co-inventor Philip Ehrhorn said. "It is a lot easier to stop it at an earlier stage instead of in the ocean."

The tool works as follows. By pumping air through a tube with holes in it, which is located on the bottom of a waterway, a bubble barrier appears. This creates an upward 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 through the Bubble Barrier, but plastic will be stopped.

The invention's origins go back around four years, when Dutch students Saskia Studer, Anne Marieke Eveleens and Francis Zoet looked at the bubbles of a beer glass in a bar and thought they should do something similar. Ehrhorn, a German student, had the same idea. After he found out about the plans of the three Dutch women, they decided to join forces in Amsterdam.

"It is the first step of many," Ehrhorn continued on the project. "First, the different rivers and canals in the Netherlands - cities, industrial areas, ports. In the following years, we will go to the rest of Europe, Asia and elsewhere."

According to Bianca Nijhof, managing director of the Netherlands Water Partnership, the network of Dutch organizations in the water sector is a first point of call for anyone seeking Dutch water expertise, so it was no coincidence that this invention and development started in the Netherlands.

"The Netherlands has to deal with the water for centuries, because of course part of the country lies below the sea level," Nijhof said.

"We have learned to live with water and have built a thriving society."


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