If you walk along the Westerdok canal in Amsterdam, you might not notice a line of bubbles moving across the surface. But underwater, a tube stretches along the bottom of the canal, pushing air upward. It’s a pilot test of new technology, called the Great Bubble Barrier , designed to help catch plastic waste before it flows into the North Sea. “It can stop plastics that are drifting not only on the surface, but also underwater,” says Philip Ehrhorn, the coinventor of the device, who works on technical development at the startup that created it, also called the Great Bubble Barrier. An air compressor—connected to renewable energy from Amsterdam’s local grid—pumps air into the tube, and holes in the tube let the air escape as bubbles. Because the tube sits diagonally across the canal, the flow of bubbles combines with the natural flow of the water to help push plastic to the side, where it lands in a catchment system and can be collected by the city. In a previous test in a Dutch river, the system was able to capture 86% of the plastic flowing through the water. [Image: courtesy The Great Bubble Barrier] Amsterdam already has a […]

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