28/09/2018 – News / Innovation / Environment / Plastic / Waste / The Great Bubble Barrier / The Netherlands

Innovative ‘air bubble curtain’ to stem the tide of ocean-bound plastic wins green award


Amsterdam-based start-up The Great Bubble Barrier was declared winner of the recent Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2018. During the final, 29-year-old Anne Marieke Eveleens convinced the international jury that her ‘Bubble Barrier’ – a revolutionary air bubble curtain that combats the plastic soup in our oceans – was the winning concept. Anne Marieke and her team will receive a cheque for €500,000 to further develop their green innovation.


The Great Bubble Barrier – https://thegreatbubblebarrier.com/en/ – has developed an air bubble screen for use on riverbeds that catches plastic before it arrives at sea. Approximately 80 per cent of plastic floating in the oceans enters the sea via rivers. In order to tackle this plastic soup, The Great Bubble Barrier sends high-pressure air through a perforated tube on the riverbed. This effectively creates an air bubble curtain that blocks both the stream of plastic waste on the surface and the floating microparticles underwater (while allowing fish and vessels to pass through the barrier unimpeded). The plastic then floats to the waterfront along the air bubble curtain, where it is collected for recycling.


“We were tipped off about the competition really at the last minute – the fact that I am standing here now as a winner is beyond my wildest dreams!,” said Ms Eveleens. “The prize money will help us to attract new talent, but also to develop our own plastic capture system. In addition, we can now put in a ‘Bubble Barrier’ in the Netherlands. Fantastic!”


Innovative finalists


36-year-old Ann Runnel, founder of Reverse Resources from Estonia, was awarded the runner-up prize of €200,000. Reverse Resources is a software platform for the clothing industry’s recycling process. Using the platform, clothing manufacturers can directly align their supply of waste textiles with textile recyclers. http://reverseresources.net/


Meanwhile, and additional €100,000 prize money went to three worthy runners up from the Netherlands, the UK and the USA. 


Dutch start-up AquaBattery has developed an innovative product that stores electricity solely using water and table salt. The firm wants to stop the use of toxic materials, such as acids, that are used to build conventional batteries and are damaging to the environment. The company hopes its invention will “revolutionise the energy storage world”. http://aquabattery.nl/


Another runner-up was British start-up LettUs Grow, which designs efficient irrigation and farm control systems for indoor farms – systems deliver higher crop yields, reduce production costs and make farmers’ lives easier. Using soil-free aeroponics, where nutrients and water are delivered to plant roots as a mist, the firm’s technology not only allows for greater oxygenation of the roots, delivering better flavour and faster growth, but it also uses up to 95-per-cent less water than traditional agriculture. https://lettusgrow.com/


Finally, Algiknit – a biomaterials company integrating science and design into textile production – rounded off the three runner-up companies at the recent competition. The American start-up develops biomaterials from kelp – one of the fastest growing organisms on earth (up to 10 times faster than bamboo). Addressing the ecological damage caused by the fashion industry, AlgiKnit is creating “durable yet rapidly degradable yarns”. https://www.algiknit.com


A record 845 entrepreneurs from 100 countries submitted their sustainable business plans to the competition this year, aimed at combating climate change. All five finalists will receive six months of expert coaching to improve the likelihood of their businesses succeeding. 


Last year, the Rwandan start-up EarthEnable won the €500,000 first prize with its sustainable alternative to cement. The firm’s custom-developed earthen floors eliminate the unsanitary dirt floors that are a common feature across many emerging markets, providing affordable, sanitary flooring that can be washed, cleaned, and used to create a healthy home environment for millions of people.

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