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The Great Bubble Barrier:
A Smart Solution to Plastic Pollution

300 million tonnes. 

That’s how much plastic is produced each and every year. 

Only about 9% of all plastic ever made has ever been recycled. Of the remaining 91%, an estimated 5.24 trillion pieces are currently in our oceans. By 2050, it is predicted that the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight.

Sailors by trade, the devastating effects of plastic entering the oceans were obvious to the founders of The Great Bubble Barrier. Whilst brainstorming in a bar, the bubbles in their beers inspired a bubbly solution. 

Their idea was simple. A tube with holes is placed on the bottom of a river, pumping air through the tube creates a bubble barrier, or air curtain. The air bubbles force plastics in the water to the surface, making them accessible for removal. By placing the bubble barrier diagonally to the flow of a river, the power of the river forces debris to the banks of the river, where it can be easily removed from the water. 


The concept has been extensively tested in the Netherlands, with testing insights showing that the Bubble Barrier works under challenging weather conditions and catches 86% of all test material. Currently, plastic is removed from the rivers using nets, and brought ashore. Further research is underway to determine a more efficient method. 

The Bubble Barrier covers the full width and depth of a river, intercepting plastics and preventing them from flowing into the ocean. Both fish and ships can easily pass through the barrier, whilst the plastic is left to be removed and recycled. As bubble screens absorb sounds and waves, it has the added benefit of helping fish experience less harm from the ship traffic. The system also brings aeration to the water, increasing oxygen levels and improving the health of the ecosystem. With these aspects the Great Bubble Barrier meets a number of important conditions: it barely hinders ship traffic, fish movement and the natural workings of the delta.

The creators behind The Great Bubble Barrier aim for a total solution that can permanently decrease the amount of plastics entering our oceans. Their next steps are to implement more Bubble Barriers, and extend internationally. 

The Great Bubble Barrier can be applied in every city with water, to help fight plastic pollution.

Could your city be next?

The Great Bubble Barrier is just one of many initiatives making a difference. As part of UrbanVolt’s #TurnTheTide campaign, we are sharing stories from around the world about people, businesses and communities who are playing their part in the fight against climate change, in an effort to inspire action.

We want to hear about the changes that you’ve made, and the people and companies that inspire you. No matter how big or small, let us know. We want to highlight each and every little step which is contributing to a giant leap forward. 

Join the conversation by using #TurnTheTide.