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City envy: we want a river-cleaning bubble barrier like Amsterdam

Written by
Kyra Hanson

Bubbles are brilliant, and not just in baths and booze: they’re also being used to fight plastic pollution in Dutch canals.

Dreamt up by three Amsterdam women, the Great Bubble Barrier is essentially two tubes full of holes placed at the bottom of a river or canal. Air is pumped through the holes, and rubbish is propelled to the surface by bubbles. (The tech is already used elsewhere to clean up oil spills.) If the tubes are placed diagonally, the current carries the rubbish to the riverbank, so it can be fished out before it reaches the sea, without hindering marine life or passing boats.

A team running trials in the River IJssel scooped out around 80 percent of test plastic, and with the crowdfunding target smashed, the first permanent Bubble Barrier is due to be piloted in the Netherlands this year. That’s worth raising a glass of fizz to.

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