Frequently asked questions

Frequently Asked Questions


The Great Bubble Barrier

How does the Bubble Barrier work?

The idea is simple. A tube with holes is placed on the bottom of a river. Pumping air through the tube creates a bubble curtain. The air bubbles force plastics in the water to the surface, making them accessible for removal. This concept is used in the oil industry, the dredging industry and in the Dutch lock system. By placing the bubble barrier diagonally to the flow of a river, the power of the river forces debris to the banks of the river, where it can be easily removed from the water.

Is there a Bubble Barrier in use?

At the moment, there are Bubble Barriers in use, you can find the Bubble Barriers that have been implemented on our timeline.

How is the plastic collected?

We are using a catchment system which is designed by TGBB to work in line with the Bubble Barrier. The catchment system is always adapted to work with the existing infrastructure of each project. However, the combination of our Bubble Barrier with other catchment systems is also possible.

Does the Bubble Barrier allow fish to pass?

Most species will just pass through the Bubble Barrier or take a short time before they pass it. We nevertheless implement a fish passage in each design, for example under the catchment system. We will always carefully consider the ecological impact of each Bubble Barrier.

Whales use bubbles to hunt fish. Does the Bubble Barrier have the same effect on fish?

Humpback whales use the so called “bubble-net feeding” method to concentrate herring near the water surface. The whales use air bubbles to blow a ring around the school of fish before they jointly breach the surface and feed on the fish. Research suggests that the main driver behind the concentration of the fish is the sound which the whales make when they blow the bubble ring. The bubbles will create a “wall of sound” which scares the fish away from it rather than being afraid of the bubbles themselves. Our Bubble Barrier is silent, thin and doesn’t come as a surprise.

Could the Bubble Barrier also be placed in the sea?

We want to prevent plastic from ever reaching the sea or oceans. Therefore, our Bubble Barrier system is designed for rivers and canals.

Can I also use the Bubble Barrier for something other than plastic capture?

Bubble curtains can also be used for other applications than the capture of plastic. However, our Bubble Barrier system focuses on the capture of plastic only. For all other applications with bubble curtains, we would like to put you in touch with one of our partners.

Until what depth can the Bubble Barrier be placed?

Until now we have implemented the tube of the bubble curtain of the Bubble Barrier to a depth of 7 meters. It can be investigated whether the Bubble Barrier can be placed even deeper.


How much plastic and which size of debris does a Bubble Barrier remove?

Based on the results of the pilot at Deltares research institute, it has been calculated that the Great Bubble Barrier captures approximately 70-80% of top-surface floating plastic and 50% of plastic underwater.

During the tests in the IJssel we looked at how these results translate in a river.  We tested our Bubble Barrier at the IJssel in various weather conditions and came to the conclusion that it caught 86% of the (floating) test material.

We can catch plastics with a size of 1mm and bigger, like granulate and styrofoam. In the pilot at Wervershoof, we are investigating whether we can catch microplastics measuring 20 micrometers up to 500 micrometers (0,5 millimeters).

Is it possible to remove microplastics from water by using a Bubble Barrier?
During the Berlin Bubble Barrier Pilot, the Bubble Barrier was able to catch plastic as small as 1 millimetre. It depends on the catchment system whether the microplastics are able to be brought ashore. In the pilot at Wervershoof, we are investigating whether we can catch microplastics measuring 20 micrometers up to 500 micrometers (0,5 millimeters).
Are all types of plastic caught by the Bubble Barrier?

During the tests at Deltares, different types of plastics were tested: from packages, water bottles, popped balloons, plastic bags, bottle caps and plastic grit. Most floating plastics and underwater plastics can be caught. Unfortunately, plastic that has sunk and rolls slowly over the bottom of a river is unlikely to be caught.


What is a Bubble Barrier made of?

The Bubble Barrier is tube, made of EPDM, with holes in it. This tube is reinforced with a steel cable and is attached to the bottom at some points with steel or (recycled) concrete blocks.

Plastic Extraction & Use

What happens to the collected trash?
We collect the plastic of the pilots for research. However, we are always looking for creative uses for the plastic which has been removed, in order to create more awareness about this problem.

Energy consumption

How much energy does a Bubble Barrier use?

The Bubble Barrier uses compressed air to create the bubble curtain. Depending on the scale and length of the Bubble Barrier, this is done by means of a compressor. The length of the Bubble Barrier has a significant influence on the necessary energy usage. We will always be looking for the most energy-efficient configuration, but this may vary per city and infrastructure. Our Bubble Barrier uses much less energy than bubble curtains that are used to separate fresh from saltwater or to prevent oil spills.

Strategy & Team

What is the mission of The Great Bubble Barrier?
The Great Bubble Barrier wants to remove as much plastic as possible from the environment. We do this by clearing as many flowing inland waterways in the world from plastics, as possible. This way we want to improve water quality and thereby quality of life for humans and animals.
What is the vision of The Great Bubble Barrier?
We filter plastic from the water by placing bubble screens in rivers. This way we want to bring plastic back into the supply chain in a sustainable way. In addition, we want to make people aware of the plastic problem in order to prevent the increase of plastic in the rivers. And thus make the Bubble Barriers superfluous again!
Are there career opportunities at The Great Bubble Barrier?

The Great Bubble Barrier is a young and fast-growing Dutch start-up based in Amsterdam Noord.
We are proud of our growth, mentality and the impact that we can achieve. To get the rivers free from plastics again, we’re always in need of talented and motivated pioneers who can support this mission and want to change the world with their own hands. Are you already sparkling? View all opportunities and openings now. View all job openings here >>

Support, Funding & Donations

How can I donate?
Check out our funding page to see how you can contribute!


I have suggestions and/or feedback, can I contact you?

Of course! We will happily receive any questions, suggestions or feedback you may have. You can leave a message via the contact form and we will contact you as soon as possible.

Can I visit a Bubble Barrier?

Yes, you can visit the Bubble Barrier Amsterdam in the Westerdok. Both virtually as physically.

Can I become a volunteer at The Great Bubble Barrier?

We are always looking for helping hands. Feel free to get in touch. We might ask for your CV.

How can I do an internship, research placement or graduation project at The Great Bubble barrier?

We are always looking for helping hands. Feel free to get in touch. We might ask for your CV.