Today’s Solutions: May 21, 2022

The canals which intersect Amsterdam are a famous addition to the city, but they also collect a lot of trash. When it comes to keeping these waterways clean, one solution is incredibly simple: air bubbles. 

Westerdok canal in Amsterdam is piloting new technology dubbed the Great Bubble Barrier. The system uses renewable energy from Amsterdam’s local grid to run an air tube along the bottom of the canal. As air bubbles are strategically released, they are able to work in conjunction with the canal’s flow to collect the garbage in concentrated areas where it is then collected. The system is simple, yet effective. In trial runs, it was able to collect 86 percent of trash moving through a waterway. 

Amsterdam already uses garbage boats to capture 90,000 pounds of plastic waste each year from the canals, but this new technology will allow smaller pieces of waste to be caught. 

The Great Bubble Barrier’s co-creator, Philip Ehrhorn, says the device was inspired by hot tub jet technology. If the three year trial in Westerdok canal goes well, the device will be implemented in others as well.

The company hopes to expand and install Bubble Barriers as additional waste capturing technology in other cities with prominent waterways. Additionally, it is pairing up with the non-profit, Plastic Soup Foundation, to analyze the collected waste and learn more about its composition and source. Hopefully, this new technology will be able to not only capture trash but also help eliminate common sources of waterway pollution.

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