Motor vehicles have been brought up as one of the sources of microplastics that are ending up in seas and other bodies of water. In the context of tires, the term “microplastics” is somewhat misleading because tires contain rubber rather than plastic. However, plastic and rubber are both polymers.
Many publications include the dust created during tires’ contact with the road – i.e. wear particles from the tire and road surface – under micro polymers or microplastics. Out of the particles that are generated, roughly one half comes from the tire and the other half from the road surface. As the particles are quite heavy, most of them settle along roads, a small fraction of them remains airborne and only 2% to 5% of released particles may reach the estuaries.
As a tire manufacturer, we are responsible for the safety of our products. The friction between the tire and the road is a significant safety factor and it is required for a tire to grip properly. Friction also causes tire and road wear, resulting in wear particles. In tire design, we aim for the best combination of wear durability, on the one hand and grip and safety characteristics, on the other hand, in order to optimize the tire in terms of road safety and eco-friendliness.
ADDITIONAL RESEARCH IS REQUIRED
The current research has noted that, in fresh water areas, particles in sediments may pose a low risk to some aquatic organisms. However, additional research is required in order to determine whether the particles that enter bodies of water pose harm to the ecosystem or human health.
One important aspect of reducing the harmful impacts of driving is how we can prevent particle emissions from traffic or control them in an eco-friendlier way from the infrastructure perspective. Such areas for improvement could include sewer systems, ditch embankments or water purification.
We are actively following the studies on this topic and participate in external studies ordered by ETRMA and other organizations. Reliable field and laboratory tests for understanding the nature, harmful impacts and routes of entry of the particles are required because many of the current estimates are based on mathematical models and calculations.
We are committed to continuous improvement and are developing our products and functions to be even more eco-friendly. We take human safety and health very seriously. If future research indicates that micro polymers are harmful, we will react accordingly and look for new solutions.