Addressing tyre and
road wear particles

When a car, truck or bus travels on a road, motion and force cause tiny pieces to rub off from tyre and road surfaces. These are called “tyre and road wear particles” and are commonly associated to the family of microplastics based on their size and composition.

The contact between tyres and roads is necessary for keeping vehicles on the road and moving. This poses a challenge: how can we reduce tyre and road wear particles without impacting the important role tyres play in road safety and mobility?

Tyres keep us moving

 

Tyres have essential functions

Mobility

Tyres help move people and goods from point A to point B. They are a vital part of any moving vehicle today.

Road safety

The primary role of tyres is to hold the vehicle on the road and contribute to safety in various driving conditions, e.g. in sudden or frequent braking.

Efficiency

Tyre design can reduce a vehicle’s energy
consumption and CO2 emissions.

Addressing Tyre and Road Wear Particles

When the rubber meets the road…

A tyre secures a vehicle on the road and performs its safety and mobility functions through friction with the road surface. Friction between tyres and roads is needed for grip on the road, but it also leads to abrasion of both the tyre and road generating particles. Similarly, particles are released by the friction between shoe soles and pavements when walking.

 

…Particles are generated

Tyre and road wear particles are a mixture of tyre tread fragments and road surface elements, such as minerals and road dust,  approximately 50% each. These particles are commonly considered microplastics because of their size and composition. Generated by the friction between roads and tyre surfaces, they are called ‘unintentionally released microplastics.1

WHAT ARE
MICROPLASTICS?

‘Microplastics’ are pieces of plastic in the environment which come from different sources. There is no single definition of microplastics, but the term usually refers to particles with a diameter of 5 mm or less than 5 mm that include polymeric material (‘plastics’) in their composition.1 The full impact of microplastics on environmental and human health is still unknown and the subject of on-going research.

1 European Commission, “A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy” (2018)

What are the factors generating particles?

 

Many factors affect tyre tread abrasion rates (the total amount of mass lost from the tyre surface due to interaction with the road per unit of distance).

Tyre design

Vehicle characteristics

Road surface

Weather

Road topology

Driving behavior

Factors, such as driving behaviour, road and vehicle characteristics, can together have a much bigger influence on the rate at which tyre and road wear particles are formed than tyre design alone. This is why it is so important to adopt a holistic approach when addressing this challenge.

We’re working on solutions

 

But knowledge gaps on the distribution and transportation of tyre and road wear particles and their impact on environmental and human health still exist. The tyre industry is engaged in contributing to fill these first. The European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA) strives for a clean environment and safe roads. It works together with partners to fill the knowledge gaps on tyre and road wear particles and develop practical solutions for reducing the levels of these particles found in the environment.

Over the last decade, the tyre industry has led a variety of international research projects and initiatives:

TRWP (Tyre and Road Wear Particles) Platform:

A multi-stakeholder platform launched by ETRMA and facilitated by the European Business Network for Corporate Social Responsibility in 2018.
  • A multi-stakeholder platform launched by ETRMA and facilitated by the European Business Network for Corporate Social Responsibility in 2018.
  • The platform brings together governments, academia, non-governmental organisations and industries.
  • Through an open and inclusive dialogue, the Platform aims to share scientific knowledge, achieve a common understanding of the possible effects of particles generated during normal tyre use and wear, and co-design mitigation options to reduce TRWP.

“Characterising export of land-based microplastics to the estuary”

Cardno ChemRisk and Deltares (2018)

ETRMA-commissioned study analysed the distribution and retention of tyre and road wear particles in freshwater and transportation to saltwater environments.
  • ETRMA-commissioned study analysed the distribution and retention of tyre and road wear particles in freshwater and transportation to saltwater environments.
  • Main conclusion shows that 2-5% of particles generated on roads are estimated to arrive at the end of river streams before they flow into the open waters of seas and oceans.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD)

Tire Industry Project (TIP):

The primary global forum for the tyre industry on sustainability issues that aims to proactively identify and address any potential human health and environmental impacts associated with tyres.
  • The primary global forum for the tyre industry on sustainability issues that aims to proactively identify and address any potential human health and environmental impacts associated with tyres.
  • TIP’s research has found that the presence of tyre and road wear particles pose a low risk of toxicity to aquatic organisms.
  • TIP has announced further research on the presence and impact of these particles in different environments (air, soil, river and lake deposits, estuaries and oceans).

On-going research project and initiatives:

The TRWP Platform concluded in June 2019 and a report on its findings will be published in the following months.

The European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO) is exploring the feasibility and accuracy of a standard test method for measuring the tyre abrasion rate to present to the European Commission.

Through the Tyre Industry Project (TIP), several European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA) members are contributing to projects to further understand the potential environmental and human impacts of tyre and road wear particles.

And it’s a common effort

 

The tyre industry’s efforts alone will not be enough to solve the issue

The essential role tyres play in enabling movement of people and goods means that there are no ‘quick fixes’ to reducing or eliminating tyre and road wear generation. It requires appropriate, science-based and stakeholder-driven solutions, considering both tyre design and the diverse external factors at play.

The European tyre industry is supporting greater cooperation and partnerships across industries towards this end. In addition, on-going industry-driven research will continue identifying and, where appropriate, implementing solutions in the medium-term.

News & Resources

 

You will find the latest initiatives and research here:

Characterising export of land-based microplastics to the estuary – Part I
12 June 2019

Characterising export of land-based microplastics to the estuary – Part I

Part I: Application of integrated geospatial microplastic transport models to assess tire and road wear particles in the Seine watershed In March 2017, ETRMA commissioned a study to Cardno Chemrisk...
Read more
Characterising export of land-based microplastics to the estuary – Part II
12 June 2019

Characterising export of land-based microplastics to the estuary – Part II

Part II: Sensitivity analysis of an integrated geospatial microplastic transport modelling assessment of tire and road wear particles In March 2017, ETRMA commissioned a study to Cardno Chemrisk /...
Read more

About & Contact

About ETRMA

The European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers’ Association is the voice of the tyre and rubber goods producers to various European institutions. Its activities focus on representation, coordination, communication, promotion and technical liaison. Corporate members include: Apollo Vredestein, Bridgestone, Continental, Coopertires, Goodyear, Hankook, Michelin, Nokian Tyres, Pirelli, Sumitomo, Trelleborg.

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