The highest estimates suggest that rivers transport as much as four million tonnes of plastic out to sea every year.
Engineers have developed physical interventions that trap plastic and reduce this flow, but these barriers often impede boats and animals, limiting where the barriers can be used. But now, a Dutch team has created a barrier that it claims can block plastic without affecting other river traffic, and they’ve just tested their prototype in its first large-scale trial.
Francis Zoet, a former energy and sustainability consultant, designed the Great Bubble Barrier with two friends in response to the plastic they saw flowing through Amsterdam into the North Sea. “We thought, we need a barrier. We need something to stop this,” she says.
But you can’t just put a wall across the watercourses of a maritime nation like the Netherlands. So that rules out solutions such as Baltimore’s garbage wheel which, while very effective, blocks part of the river with a containment boom, similar to the ones used to trap spilled oil.
Photo: Mike Wilson/Unsplash