The profile of the tire is worn, new tires are needed. Everyday life for many drivers. But where do these lost centimeters of the tire profile "disappear"? As micro-rubbers they reach mainly in soil and water and to a lesser extent in the air. And the amount of these particles in our environment is anything but small, as the Empa researchers have now calculated.
Microplastic is on everyone's lips. However, the amount of microplastic in air and water is small compared to another polymer that pollutes our air and our water and thus our organism: micro-rubber. These are the finest particles from the tire abrasion, which get over the roadway in the ground and in the air or are removed by artificial turf. In the meantime, Empa researchers have calculated that in the last 30 years from 1
The Cause: Squeaky Tires
Researchers around Bernd Nowack from the Empa Laboratory "Technology and Society" identified car and truck tires as the main source of microplastic rubber. "We have quantified the abrasion of tires, but also the removal of artificial green areas such as artificial turf," says Nowack. However, this plays only a minor role, since only three percent of the delivered rubber particles from rubber granules come from artificial green spaces. The tire abrasion is responsible for the remaining 97 percent. Of the particles released into the environment, almost three quarters are on the left and right side of the road for the first five meters, 5 percent on the other soils and almost 20 percent in the waters. The team based its calculations on tire import and export data and then modeled the behavior of rubber on roads and in street wastes. Since 2000, the guidelines for the recycling of water and the prevention of soil pollution have been significantly tightened. Measures such as the construction of public sewage treatment plants (SABA) can now remove part of the micro-rubber from the water.
Low human exposure
Part of the microsugar is first transported by air into the water The first five meters left and right of the road, deposited and partially re-stirred. However, Christoph Hüglin from the Empa Laboratory "Air Pollution / Environmental Technology" estimates the effects on humans as low, as a study from 2009 shows. "The proportion of tire abrasion in inhaled fine dust is also in the low-single-digit percentage range at traffic-related locations," says Hüglin.
Researchers emphasize, however, that microplastic and micro-rubber are not the same. "These are different particles that are difficult to compare," says Nowack. And there are also large volume differences: According to Nowack calculations, only 7 percent of the polymer-based microparticles released into the environment are plastic, while 93 percent are tire abrasions. "The amount of micro-rubber in the environment is enormous and therefore highly relevant," says Nowack.
Every year 5000 tons of plastic are released into the environment
Ramona Sieber et al. Dynamic probabilistic material flow analysis of the rubber release of tires into the environment, Environmental Pollution (2019). DOI: 10.1016 / j.envpol.2019.113573
Hugo A.C. Denier van der Gon et al. The Political Relevance of Road Exhaust Emissions Today and in the Future – An International Workshop Report and Consensus Statement, Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (2012). DOI: 10.1080 / 10962247.2012.741055
Rubber in the environment: where the profile of our tires "disappears" (2019, 14 November)
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