In mid-November, the Green Party in the EU Parliament put out a statement on twitter saying: “tyres release more than 500,000 tonnes of microplastics into the environment?”. Stating that this means it is “time to reinvent the wheel”, the green party added: “Yesterday [13 November] we fought hard and we managed to convince the EU to label tyre abrasion in order to tackle plastic pollution”. With this in mind, Tyres & Accessories asked ETRMA what the pan-European tyre industry is adding to the discussion.
Professor Richard Thompson OBE, who leads the International Marine Research Unit at the University of Plymouth, has questioned claims made by the Marine Conservation Society relating the role played by tyre wear in marine microplastic pollution.
According to a new report undertaken by Eunomia Research and Consulting for Friends of the Earth, up to 19,000 tonnes of microplastic pollution could be entering UK waterways every year from vehicle tyres. The report, titled Reducing Household Contributions to Marine Plastic Pollution, listed tyres in its ‘top ten’ list of items of concern, commenting that interventions and innovation, as well as governmental, business and scientific collaboration, may be required over the coming five years to solve the issue.
The UK government identifies tyres as potentially responsible for up to ten per cent of the microplastics in the world’s oceans, and some research conducted abroad suggests this proportion could be much higher. A study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicates that 28.3 per cent of all primary microplastics may come from tyre/road wear (this figure rises to 46.2 per cent when the IUCN includes both natural and synthetic rubber in its scenario), and earlier this year a marine biologist from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research singled out tyres as a “major influence” upon the presence of microplastics in our oceans. Taking such research at face value, it is feasible that the ‘dieselgate’ scandal could be followed at some stage by ‘tyregate’. Yet the tyre industry asserts that tyre/road wear isn’t the environmental and health risk some claim it to be. Continental’s Nikolai Setzer recently discussed this side of the argument.