Bioshoreline: Biodegradable geotextiles for bank protection

Sequentially biodegradable geotextile filters for technical and biological bank protection on inland waterways

Geotextile filter prototype

The geotextile filter consists of various rapidly and slowly degrading fibers.

Laying of geotextile

The developed geotextile was laid under stone mattresses at the BAW test section on the Rhine near Worms.

Installation of willow spread

To test the rootability of the geotextile under real conditions, a willow spread layer was installed on the geotextile.

Project aims: Geotextile filters from renewable raw materials

The aim of the Bioshoreline research project is to develop a biodegradable geotextile from renewable raw materials for use as a temporary filter for technical and biological bank protection on inland waterways, i.e. for environmentally friendly bank protection using plants. The innovative geotextile filter should initially retain the soil in the bank area until the plant roots have grown sufficiently and are able to take over the filter function. The geotextile filter will gradually degrade completely in parallel with this. To achieve this, the project team BNP Brinkmann GmbH & Co. KG, Trevira GmbH, FKuR Kunststoff GmbH, Bundesanstalt für Wasserbau (BAW), and Fraunhofer UMSICHT are combining a mixture of rapidly degradable natural fibers and bio-based, slowly degradable synthetic fibers in a geotextile fleece and are testing the technical properties and biodegradability in particular. With this development, the project team is opening up a new field of application for bio-based and biodegradable plastics.

Benefits: Natural bank protection

Shipping traffic in inland waterways leads to changing hydraulic loads on the banks. With the introduction of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD), the banks, which have so far been mainly secured using technical methods, are to be made more natural over the long term by using plants. 

For the initial state, additional fortifications and measures are usually required to ensure the safety of the banks until sufficient roots have formed. This also includes temporary geotextile fleeces, which guarantee filter stability in the bank area for the first three years after installation. These must retain the soil and have sufficient permeability and strength while also being permeable to roots and biodegradable over the long term so as not to permanently restrict the passage of microorganisms in the bank area. Once suitable filter fleeces are available, the applicability of more natural bank protection measures on inland waterways can be increased.

Geotextile filter closes research gap

Biodegradable nonwovens tested to date for technical and biological bank protection are not sufficiently stable under the given loads and degrade too quickly. Alternatives made from plastic are stable and durable but remain permanently in the soil. A suitable solution that meets all of the requirements is still lacking.

With the development of a biodegradable geotextile filter made from renewable raw materials, the partners in the Bioshoreline project are closing this gap. This is because the innovative filter enables plants to grow in technical and biological bank protection systems and it gradually breaks down completely so that the vegetation can take over the filter stability in the bank. The geotextile filter is composed of various rapidly degradable natural fibers and slowly degradable industrially-created fibers, whereby the technical requirements are met for at least three years.

Field experiment planned for prototypes

Geotextile prototypes are currently being developed for this purpose. During the next phase of the project, selected prototypes will be tested with regard to permeability to roots in special experiments on the BAW site. In addition, the prototypes will be installed on a section of waterway in a field experiment and investigated over several years as regards their technical properties and biodegradation. The geotextile filters will then be optimized based on the knowledge gained.

Result: Geotextile prototype

The first prototypes of geotextile filters have been produced and characterized so far. Suitable raw materials were selected first of all. The processing properties and the biodegradability of the synthetic fibers had to be adapted and the processing conditions for the production of the polymers had to be developed. To select suitable fibers for the prototypes, the processing properties of geotextiles were investigated in addition to the various compositions and the different degradation times associated with them.

The general rootability of the manufactured geotextile filters was demonstrated by the project partners BAW and Fraunhofer UMSICHT with willow spread layers as planting in special test boxes. However, fewer and shorter roots and shoots were found with geotextile compared to the boxes without geotextile within six and eight months, respectively.

In January 2020, the installation of the various prototypes took place at the BAW test section on the Rhine near Worms on a 30 m x 6 m embankment section under stone mattresses. By changing water levels, the biodegradation under different hydraulic loads can be determined. Samples are taken and tested at different intervals. The initial aim is to evaluate the properties after three years and, in the long term, to demonstrate the degradation process of the geotextile as a function of time under waterway conditions. In parallel, a willow spread layer was installed on the newly developed geotextile in February 2021 on the Rhine to investigate its rootability and the development of willows on the geotextile. Further optimization of the geotextile will be carried out on the basis of the findings from field and rooting tests.

Project partners

  • BNP Brinkmann GmbH & Co. KG
  • Trevira GmbH
  • FKuR Kunststoff GmbH
  • BAW Bundesanstalt für Wasserbau

Funding information

Federal Ministry of Food and Agricululture


Duration: November 2020 to November 2023

Funding code: 2220NR012A