Microplastics – we can’t get enough of them. Not that we want any more of them, they’re probably really bad for us, and they’ve started appearing in our bloodstreams. Now, according to research from Griffith University, it appears that car tyres are adding to the microplastics stew in our waterways.
According to the study, which quantified and characterised the microplastics in stormwater runoff and drainage systems in Queensland, 19 out of every 20 microplastics collected originated from tyre wear particles. Of the analysed water, microplastics from tyres made up anywhere between 2 to 59 particles per litre of water.
And, yeah, tyre rubber is definitely something to be a bit concerned about. The rubber, according to Griffith University, contains up to 2,500 chemicals. The chemicals that separate from tyres are “considered more toxic to bacteria and microalgae than other plastic polymers”.
But, hey, it’s not all bad. There’s a silver lining to all those microplastics that’s not just more microplastics.
“We also assessed the effectiveness of a stormwater treatment device to capture and remove these contaminants from stormwater and evaluated the role of a constructed stormwater wetland for capturing microplastics in the sediment, removing it from stormwater runoff,” study co-author Professor Fred Leusch said.
“The device is a bag made of 0.2-millimetre mesh which can be retrofitted to stormwater drains. Although originally designed to capture gross pollutants, sediment, litter, and oil and grease, it significantly reduced microplastics from raw runoff, with up to 88 per cent less microplastics in treated water which had passed through the device.”
The research team reckons that stormwater capture devices, like the one outlined by Leusch, could be the answer to this growing concern, to, at the very least, decrease the amount of microplastics tyres are contributing to our waterways.