One of the most significant environmental problems of the twenty-first century is the pollution of plastics. When birds, turtles, fish, and other marine species consume or get trapped in plastic litter, it leads in millions of animal fatalities every year.
Plastics can absorb and transport toxins which results in the deaths of rare species from rivers to the ocean. They also contain hazardous chemicals such as PCBs & DDT that can poison waterways. After reaching the ocean, plastic progressively deteriorates and disintegrates into small microplastics that can get into the marine food chain.
However, the awesome news is that there is a means to stop plastics from ever entering the ocean!
The Great Bubble Barrier
Over eight million tons of plastic pollute the oceans annually, & around 60% to 80% of that plastic waste comes from rivers, according to Plastic Smart Cities. Claar-els van Delft, co-founder of the NGO Coast Busters, came up with an innovative solution to block plastic from migrating that won’t interfere with fish or ship traffic: The Great Bubble Barrier, in order to lessen the number of plastic waste that makes its way from rivers to the ocean.
According to The Guardian, Van Delft discovered something that suggested the plastic waste particles washing up on the shore of the Dutch seaside town of Katwijk was originating from a nearby river.
How does it work?
According to The Guardian, Van Delft stated, “We started picking up garbage and we saw, near the river entry, bits that emerged from fresh water – all kinds of plastic.” Brush bristles, tampon sheaths, crisp packaging, drink packaging, everything.
The very 1st river bubble barrier was installed in Katwijk, Netherlands last month.
The website for The Great Bubble Barrier states that air is pushed through perforated tubing to create the barrier of bubbles, which then creates a diagonal veil of bubbles that directs plastics to the top & then to a collection system on the side of the river.
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According to The Guardian, the team behind The Great Bubble Barrier is mainly composed of surfers, sailors, as well as other water sports enthusiasts who won the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge in 2018 and launched their debut trial bubble barrier the following year in an Amsterdam canal. The first river bubble barrier for the company was built with more than $470,000 donated by 12 towns, including the Coast Busters, the Holland Rijnland, Rijnland water board & Zuid-Holland regions, and community fundraisers as a result of the pilot’s success.
However, we are also the last stop before all the plastics gathered along the Oude Rijn pour into the sea. We observe plastic pollution caused by beachgoers who leave wrappers and other trash behind.
We can halt those plastics with our bubble barrier, according to Katwijk’s deputy mayor Jacco Knape (according to Guardian). Bas Knapp, a member of the Rijnland water board’s executive board and an investor in the bubble barrier’s operations, does not think the barrier would obstruct fish migration.
According to Knapp, the bubble barrier is anticipated to remove between 86 and 90 percent of the river’s plastic pollutants. According to environmental hydrodynamics researcher Dr. Frans Buschman, in a trial in Amsterdam using tangerines released into the water, the capture rate on the catchment side of the barrier was as high as 90%, but on the other side, it was significantly lower, most likely because of lower bubble intensity.
Buschman continued by saying that the technology still had “huge potential” not withstanding the possibility that floating objects could be driven past the barrier. Southeast Asia and Portugal are both considering additional Great Bubble Barrier construction initiatives.
According to assistant professor Tim van Emmerik of Wageningen University’s hydrology & quantitative water management group, given the variety of waterways found throughout the world, some situations will call for strategies to combat plastic pollution, like The Great Bubble Barrier, to be more effective than others.
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