If you’ve been paying attention to the most nefarious pollutants in today’s society, you’re probably familiar with the term “microplastics.”
These small pieces of plastic are everywhere — from the depths of the sea to your bloodstream — and the long-term impacts won’t be known for years to come.
Naturally, the overuse of plastic packaging is a major contributor, but there’s another big culprit you might not immediately identify as such.
A rolling threat
Regulators across the U.S. and Europe have been looking for ways to address the issue of microplastics from various sources, but automobile tires is one area that is often overlooked in such conversations.
Across the European Union, estimates indicate that nearly 500,000 tons of microplastics are released into the environment each year just from tires being driven on the road.
This occurs due to the friction between the tire and the road surface, which means that larger, heavier vehicles contribute even more because an increased load causes tires to wear at a faster rate.
What can be done
Although there are no global restrictions and local or national entities aren’t on the same page regarding how to handle this problem, there are some intriguing concepts in the works that could help stem the tide of increased microplastic pollution.
For starters, tire manufacturers are experimenting with new designs aimed at reducing the speed at which tires wear out, which would be good news for consumers and the environment.
Additionally, some regulators are pursuing limits on just how heavy vehicles on the roadway can be.
Furthermore, the ongoing effort in many urban areas to emphasize public transit — or better yet, walking and cycling — as a primary form of transportation can go a long way to reducing the environmental damage caused by vehicle tires.