Filter channel retains microplastic before it gets into the environment
Our solution for tyre abrasion
Our solution for artificial turf microplastics
1. What is microplastic?
1.1Definition & sources of microplastic
Microplastics are plastic particles that are five millimetres and smaller. The particles are often so tiny that they are hardly visible to the human eye. This is why the description "invisible microplastic" is often used in the media.
When it comes to microplastics, many people initially think of microplastics in cosmetics, including:
• Shower gel
The biggest polluters are not known to many at all: The abrasion of billions of tyres in road traffic and the countless artificial sports fields form two of the largest sources of microplastic pollution in our oceans and atmosphere.
1.2 Primary and secondary microplastic
Microplastic has two different sources:
- Primary microplastic has been intentionally produced as such. One example is the infill material of artificial turf pitches.
- Secondary microplastic was originally plastic in a different form, which, for example, results from wear, weathering or rotting and ultimately ends up in rivers or seas. A classic example of this is the abrasion of tyres, which occurs every time a vehicle travels - especially when braking or cornering - and initially remains on the road. Via road runoff and drifts, the tyre abrasion is released into the water as secondary microplastic.
A problem with primary microplastic is the fact that in many cases no solution has yet been found for reducing or even preventing the transfer into the environment.
2. How do microplastics get into the environment?
Nowadays microplastic is detectable in all areas of the environment:
- In the oceans
- In soils
- In rivers
- In the groundwater
- In drinking and mineral water
- In fresh snow
- In the atmosphere
- Even in the air
But how exactly does the plastic waste get into the sea and then into the food chain or even into the air? Specific examples of two of the main sources of microplastic pollution in Germany:
- Microparticles, which are transported onto the roads by the abrasion of car tyres, discharged into nature by rain and enter rivers, oceans and terrestrial ecosystems via wastewater systems.
- Microplastic granulate from artificial turf pitches is discharged into the environment via precipitation, wind and play operations. In this way, it also reaches water bodies, including the oceans of the entire world.
Microplastics are difficult to decompose. In the environment, the tiny plastic particles are subject to further fragmentation allowing them to even pass through modern drinking water systems. These particles often act as carriers of pollutants such as pathogens, biocides or heavy metals. Microplastic enters the environment via wastewater - through rivers into the oceans. The particles also enter our food cycle through the ingestion of food by microorganisms.
The detection of microplastic particles in the Arctic confirms the suspicion that microplastics have long been transported in the atmosphere and can even be found there several thousand kilometres away. It is therefore likely that microplastics will also enter our bodies with the air we breathe (NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, quoting Melanie Bergmann).
3. Dangers & consequences of plastic and microplastic pollution in the oceans: Endangering the environment and our health
Negative consequences for the animal world can already be observed today: Thousands of animals get caught in plastic waste and injure themselves in an attempt to free themselves. If the animals ingest microplastic, blockages of the digestive tract can also occur.
The health consequences of microplastic for the human organism have not yet been fully researched and can therefore not yet be assessed. While plastic particles ingested through food are presumably excreted largely unchanged, intake through the respiratory tract may be problematic. The only study on human health that was conducted in 1998, concluded even then that "These bioresistant and biopersistent plastic fibres are candidate agents contributing to the risk of lung cancer." (From The Guardian, "Microplastics ‘significantly contaminating the air’, scientists warn")
The avoidance or retention of microplastics from all sources is therefore absolutely essential as the most efficient measure.
4. Main sources of microplastic in Germany
The Fraunhofer Institute has identified the main sources of microplastic in Germany.
A quick glance at the overview is all it takes to discover that three of the ten main sources of microplastic come from the road and traffic sector: Tyre abrasion occupies first place, followed by bitumen abrasion in third place and road markings in ninth place.
In order to avoid the progressive microplastic pollution of the environment, it is imperative to take measures.
Ideally, of course, the production of microplastic should be reduced. Until this is the case, microplastics must be prevented from entering the environment unfiltered.
How can this be achieved? In the following, you will learn more about how different sources of microplastic can be tackled.
5. Our solutions for the filtration of microplastics
Our solution for abrasion of tyres & road markings, bitumen in asphalt: DRAINFIX CLEAN
It is estimated that 110,000 tons of tyre abrasion occur annually on German roads (microplastic & microrubber).
How does that happen? How can tyre abrasion be prevented from escaping into the environment? Find out more now
Our solution for microplastic discharge from artificial turf surfaces of sports pitches and playgrounds: SPORTFIX CLEAN
250-300 kg of microplastic are discharged annually from an artificial turf pitch.
Granulate and broken grass fibres enter the environment unfiltered. How can this be prevented? Read more here.