Wind-born microplastics produced by tyres are a bigger source of ocean pollution than rivers, according to new research…
Tyres And Microplastics
New research has revealed that 200,000 tonnes of plastic are blown from British roads into the world’s oceans each year. The tiny particles are produced by tyres and brake pads and, according to scientists, are a bigger source of ocean pollution than the rivers that flow into them. It’s estimated that around 550,000 tonnes of microplastic particles are released into the atmosphere each year, with half of them ending up in oceans. Over 80,000 tonnes fall on remote and ice-covered areas, where they encourage melting after absording heat from the sun.
Microplastics have polluted environments all over the world, and are known to be harmful to marine creatures. It’s also thought that they can pose risks to humans when they contaminate food and water or when they’re inhaled; although the true impact isn’t fully understood. Andreas Stohl, from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, led the research. He said, “roads are a very significant source of microplastics to remote areas, including the oceans”. Tyres, he explained, produce 4kg of microplastics over a lifetime. He said, “it’s such a huge amount of plastic compared to, say, clothes. You will not lose kilograms of plastic from your clothing”.
What’s The Answer?
When we think of the pollution caused by cars, we tend to think of exhaust-related emissions. As a consequence, electric cars are seen as the definitive answer. However, all cars (electric or not) use tyres and these, over time, produce microplastic particles. EVs themselves are often heavier than petrol or diesel equivalents, because of the large batteries they house. This increased weight causes tyres to degrade and pollute more quickly. Stohl believes the situation will deteriorate before it improves. He explained, “electric cars are normally heavier than internal combustion engine cars. That means more wear on tyres and brakes”. He added, “the manufacturers will have to respond somehow, if this really becomes a matter of concern”.
In the UK, it was recently determined that pollution caused by tyres can be up to 1,000 times worse than exhaust emissions. Given that many EVs are following the SUV mania craze (see Tesla’s Model Y) the future looks pretty bleak. Not only are electric cars not ‘zero-emission’ they, as of yet, have not found a way of addressing microplastic pollution. But how can manufacturers respond? They’d need to develop, let’s face it, an alternative to rubber-based tyres and one that’s sustainable and just as functional. Given the industry’s current state, that’s probably within the realm of fantasy.
We’ll probably end up with a tyre variant that claims to be of a higher quality, coupled with campaigns centred around proper maintenance and correct air-pressures. Whether this would make any real difference remains to be seen. But you’d be forgiven for being a tad cynical.
The Popularity Of SUVs Is Making A ‘Mockery’ Of Emission Legislation – https://autoserve.co.uk/motoring-news/the-popularity-of-suvs-is-making-a-mockery-of-emission-legislation/
10 Ways You Can Decisively Reduce Your Car’s Emissions – https://www.autoserveclub.co.uk/blog/reduce-cars-emissions/