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The Great Bubble Barrier: Closing The Plastic Loop

Francis Zoet, Anne Marieke Eveleens, and Saskia Studer are three women with a passion for sailing and water. This is their story about The Great Bubble Barrier.

“For quite a few years we had been busy with sustainability issues when one evening we brainstormed about the plastic soup. On the riverbanks of the IJ in Amsterdam, we had seen heaps of plastic that would travel to the Northsea without anything to stop it in its way. We found out that 80% of the plastic in the oceans originates from land and flows directly into the ocean via the rivers, channels, and canals. That’s when we started thinking of a way to stop this plastic debris without obstructing ship traffic or fish migration. We came up with an idea: how about a barrier made of bubbles?

Since then we’ve been developing a bubbly solution that can catch and remove plastics from rivers without obstructing fish or ships. In a nutshell, our Great Bubble Barrier is a long tube placed on the riverbed with small holes through which air is pumped. This creates a vertical barrier of bubbles from the riverbed up to the surface. This barrier blocks plastic debris from floating downstream. By placing the barrier diagonally in the natural river flow we guide the waste to the riverbanks from where it is extracted.  This way we reach the entire width and depth of the river, without getting in the way. With our Bubble Barrier there is now a solution that helps to “close the plastic tap” so to speak, and significantly reduces the huge amount of plastic pollution in our oceans.”

The Great Bubble Barrier How it Works

“Our barrier is based on existing technology: air curtains are regularly used to contain oil spills or contain sedimentation while dredging.  We’re excited to be re-purposing this technology and explore the development of a Bubble Barrier as a plastic catchment system. In 2016 we won an environmental competition, co-organized by the Dutch Government, which was a key milestone for our project. Meanwhile, we have received lots of positive responses from people all over the world that also care about our environment.”

“In November 2017, the first open water Bubble Barrier hit the water in Kampen on the IJssel River. We’re thrilled to say that our pilot barrier caught more than 80% of test material!  We are very pleased with the results and can’t wait to realize the Bubble Barrier’s potential in a permanent setting. The pilot site in Kampen spanned nearly 200 meters and ran 3 weeks, during which we tested the efficiency of the Bubble Barrier with various parameters and minimized energy consumption. This pilot was a collaborative effort, made possible with support from the Self Supporting River System (SSRS) team of Rijkswaterstaat, Deltares, and BAM/van den Herik.

The Great Bubble Barrier has out-performed our expectations. In every weather condition, 80% of the test material was captured. This is significantly more than without Bubble Barrier.

This proves that our bubble barrier actually works! It is a perfect addition to clean-up initiatives of our oceans because until now, it is cleaning with an open plastic tap. In the long run, prevention is, of course, the best solution, and clean up as close to the source as possible is the next best thing.”

Fun fact: Besides plastic, the bubble barrier also caught artificial teeth, half a pair of glasses, and an umbrella!

You’re unstoppable! What’s next for the Great Bubble Barrier?

“Because plastic pollution affects us all, we’ve got a grand vision! With a successful pilot completed, we started a crowdfunding campaign earlier this year and which ended in May 2018. Although we were aiming for €100,000 for a fully operational Bubble Barrier, we’re still very happy that we managed to receive a little over €50,000! With that, we can build a Bubble Barrier but without a catchment system. At the moment we’re in contact with several potential partners that can help us fund the remaining part.

With a first permanent Bubble Barrier in place, it will be easier to show the effect and how it works to others, for further rollout around the world.

Great Bubble Barrier Team Out Surveying
The team out surveying. Photo credit: The Great Bubble Barrier

The Great Bubble Barrier still needs your support!

Visit and donate, to stop plastic in rivers before it reaches our oceans. They also welcome partners or financing parties to make the first global operational Bubble Barrier happen.

“We’re so excited about the year ahead. We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response we receive on our social media from people all over the world. You can keep updated on our success through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. By reaching as many people as possible, we can raise awareness about our solution and increase the possibility to install our bubble barrier in the most polluted rivers of the world."

The successful outcome of our pilot, the positive response we receive on our social media from people all over the world, together with the fact that we have a chance to do our part to fight this huge global environmental issue inspires us to keep going full speed ahead.”

To find out more about this project, visit

By Francis Zoet
Francis Zoet is Chief Technology Officer at The Great Bubble Barrier. She has an M.Sc. in Sustainable energy and materials. Francis is working on product development of the Bubble Barrier and implementation of new projects. She co-founded The Great Bubble Barrier with Anne Marieke Eveleens and Saskia Studer. They have known each other for ten […]
Photo by Sime Basioli on Unsplash
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