Microplastic pollution is one of our main environmental concerns. Plastic debris that has degraded into microparticles has permeated every marine environment and organism and has been found at places as remote as the Arctic circle. And recent studies have found that one of the leading causes of microplastic pollution is vehicle tires which are carried to remote areas by the atmosphere.
The figures are alarming with an average per capita emission of 1.78 pounds (810 grams). That adds up to 6.1 million tons, another 0.5 million from brakes. And these are from regular everyday wear and tear that comes from driving.
While earlier studies had suggested that this microplastic pollution followed rivers and ended up in the oceans, it now appears that they also end up in the atmosphere, traveling long distances to as far as the polar regions.
With the development of a complex network of roads even in remote areas of the planet, the volume of microplastic pollution is increasing exponentially. Andreas Stohl says that an average tire loses 4 kilos in its lifetime. It is way more than shedding by any other form of pollutants. The researcher from the Institute for Air Research in Norway says that clothes do not lose as many microplastic particles.
Will The Rate Of Microplastic Pollution Be Bettered Anyway?
The advent of electric cars isn’t going to make the situation better. Electric cars and vehicles are way heavier than ICE cars. Brakes and tires wear out faster for this reason. But the system of regenerative braking does go in favor of electric cars as it reduces the wear and tear of the braking system.
But the introduction of giant pickups with heavier tires will lead to a spurt in microplastic pollution.
Figures in Norway alone show that the country generates around 8000 tons of microplastic pollution. 50% of that end up in the oceans, mainly from car tires and brakes. The materials that contribute to primary microplastic pollution are carried down through water and air into the oceans. They then break up into tiny bits of secondary microplastics through the effect of wind, water, UV radiation, and ingestion by animals.
It appears that we are barking up the wrong tree by worrying about microplastic pollution in our cosmetics and clothing that contribute a pittance, but continue to ignore the main offender, cars and other vehicles which contribute more than half the total micro-pollutants that get deposited in the oceans and on land. The main reason is that the industrial lobbies behind the products are too powerful and we are too lost in its convenience to bother about any pollution that they may cause.