Are bubbles the answer to cleaner oceans?

Innovation from The Great Bubble Barrier

Often the answer to the most complex questions is almost disarmingly simple.

In this case, the solution to keeping our packaging waste out of the oceans could be something as simple as bubbles.

It seemed a little far fetched to us at first too, but after a little research, we’ve been impressed and intrigued by the innovation and design behind the aptly named Great Bubble Barrier.

This intelligent approach to filtering out litter from rivers, before it reaches the ocean is incredibly simple, but incredibly effective too.
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How does the bubble barrier work?

According to Earthwatch Europe 80% of the plastic polluting our oceans comes from rivers? That's a trashy situation, but fear not! The brilliant minds behind the Great Bubble Barrier have come up with a genius solution.

They've taken existing technology and turned it into a bubble curtain that works like a charm. By strategically placing pipes with holes along the riverbed and pumping air through them, a curtain of bubbles is created. Those that are fans of David Attenborough would recognise a similar technique used by Orcas to shepherd fish. Anyway... this nifty barrier redirects litter, making it float to the surface and guiding it into a catchment area for removal.

Bubble curtains have been successfully used to separate water types and contain oil spills. Now, they're tackling plastic pollution head-on with an impressive 86% effectiveness rate.

And before you start worrying about the energy needed for all those bubbles, relax! Bubble Barrier HQ has developed an energy-efficient air compressor that uses about as much power as an electric street sweeper. Talk about a clean sweep!

The collected plastics are then responsibly taken away for recycling, saving the day and keeping our rivers and oceans pristine. Kudos to the Bubble Barrier crew for their trash-busting innovation.
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Is the bubble barrier rising to success?

Well the big benefit is surely that all important number - 86% of litter was removed during the Great Bubble Barrier pilot.

That number soon adds up when you consider just how many rivers feed plastic pollution into the ocean every second of every day.

But, on top of that, there are other benefits too:

Safe for river wildlife - Migrating fish can travel through the bubble barrier safely and effectively, and the equipment is installed in a way that has minimal effect on the local wildlife. Just think of it like a jacuzzi for fish.

Increases dissolved oxygen levels - Like your fish tank at home the bubbles increase oxygen in the water and has a positive effect on the aquatic ecosystem in the rivers, promoting wildlife in some cases.

Shipping traffic isn’t affected - Boats and ships can navigate bubble curtains easily, with no effect on their passage.

Adaptable technology - The bubble barriers can be installed in ways that suit a range of different rivers. The team at The Great Bubble Barrier will inspect the waterway and ensure the system is designed to suit the width and depth of that river.

In operation 24/7 - These bubble curtains never sleep, silent 24/7 workers that with their innovative air compressors and catchment areas work continuously on low energy consumption.

Catches some microplastics - One of those buzz words you hear all the time when it comes to ocean pollution, but removing microplastics from the ocean is incredibly important for protecting marine life. Identified as particles smaller than 5mm, the barrier can filter out litter from 1mm to 1m in size. This is key, as there’s currently no technology in place to collect particles smaller than 1m once they enter the ocean.
Overall, The Great Bubble Barrier offers up a brilliant combination of ingenuity and simple, yet effective, design to solve one of the most concerning issues facing our marine environment to date.

And, the minimal impact it has on the environment combined with the effectiveness of the whole system makes it sound almost too good to be true.

Our only concern is the scale of adoption of the Great Bubble Barrier. There are a lot of litter-lousy rivers out there, feeding plastic pollution into the ocean every second. So, it’s up to governments across the world to invest in this type of technology to really make a difference to the current situation.

Despite this, it’s another win for simple, yet effective design which could have a truly powerful impact on the environment. We hope to see it adopted more widely in the coming years.
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