Plastic pollution affecting marine environments come in the form of microplastics, single-use plastics, toxic waste, and fibers. One of the lesser-known pollutants is tire particles which may be transferred from vehicles to bodies of water in large quantities according to researchers from the University of Plymouth and Newcastle University.
The Natural Environment Research Council just granted funding for a new three-year project to analyze tire particles affecting marine ecosystems. The new project called "Lost at Sea: where are all the tire -particles? " or the TYRE-LOSS project will use research from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs as a starting point.
The collaborative research will aim to quantify the number of tire particles making its way into the marine environment as well as discover their points of entry. The team from both universities will also measure water and sediment samples as far as nine miles of waters from the U.K.'s shores.
Tracing the Source of Tire Particles
The initial government study was conducted alongside King's College London and Eunomia, a sustainability consultancy firm. They initially reported three possible points of entry for tire particles and synthetic fibers making their way to water systems.
These included treated wastewater dumped in the environment, release from stormwater near roads, and particles in the air from roadsides that are in a 160-foot range near water. The team discovered that there were more traces of tire particles than synthetic fibers in marine environments.
The new project will also include policymakers involved in the plastics, tire, automobile, and water industries, as well as environmental groups. Using mathematical models to show the dispersal of tire particles in local aquatic environments, the research will help establish potential risks or threats to marine ecosystems.
Project TYRE-LOSS will be headed by Professor Richard Thompson from the University of Plymouth. He shared that for years, his department has researched the impacts of plastic pollution. However, "relatively little is known about the precise quantities of tire particles" and how aquatic environments are affected.
It is critical to investigate further the effect, sources, and causes of tire pollution, he shared. Working alongside experts from various industries and policymakers will enable the team to "truly address the global crisis of plastic pollution."
Dr. Geoff Abbott from Newcastle University explained that the majority of tires contain a plastic polymer in the form of synthetic rubber. Tires wearing down could be "potentially [be] a major contributor to microplastic pollution in the marine environment." At the university, they use a mass spectrometer to detect the smallest particles of microplastics in water and sediment samples.
Dr. Penelope Lindeque from Plymouth Marine Laboratory shared that her department will be in charge of using mathematical models to display tire particle dispersal and accumulation in the marine environment. Understanding where tire particles go can help the team determine the pollutant's impact on marine animals, particularly the hazardous chemicals that tires contain.
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