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Antony Antoniou – Reform UK Northampton North
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
(PPC) 2024 General Election


Plastic Pollution

Uncovering a Hidden Source of Plastic Pollution in Our Oceans

The Surprising Impact of Vehicle Tires on Marine Microplastics

When we think of plastic pollution in our oceans, images of plastic bottles, bags, and discarded fishing nets often come to mind. However, a groundbreaking study by marine biologists at the University of Plymouth has shed light on an unexpected source of microplastic pollution – the tiny particles that infiltrate both land and sea. In this blog post, we’ll delve into their research and discover how millions of vehicles on British roads might be contributing to this alarming issue.


Identifying the Hidden Culprit

For the past two decades, dedicated researchers at the University of Plymouth have been on a mission to pinpoint the sources of microplastics in our marine environments. While it’s no secret that many microplastics originate from common items such as plastic bottles, bags, cosmetics, and even clothing fibers, the team stumbled upon a revelation.

Millions of Tiny Particles: The Tire Connection

What if we told you that every time a vehicle’s wheels turn on British roads, they leave something behind? Marine biologists have uncovered a surprising culprit – vehicle tires. As tires grip the road and brakes are applied, tiny particles of rubber are generated and released into the environment. These particles are so minuscule that they are virtually impossible to see.

Unseen Pollutants in Our Seas

To understand the extent of this issue, scientists have had to develop innovative testing methods. One of their approaches involves sampling sediments from beneath road drains in the estuary, where rainwater washes the particles into waterways. Additionally, they examine what falls out from the atmosphere near roadways and search for tire particles in surface waters. The goal? To measure the prevalence of these tiny rubber fragments in the sea.

Microscopic Discoveries

Under the microscope, marine biologists find elongated black rubber particles finer than a grain of sand. Advanced chemical tests provide a more accurate estimate of the number of tire particles in our marine environments.

The Scale of the Problem

According to Professor Richard Thompson, who leads this research, “We’ve been tracing microplastics in the environment for 30 years, looking at microbeads in cosmetics and fibers from clothing, but the biggest proportion might be from tire particles. It could even make up as much as two-thirds of all microplastics entering the environment.”

Human Health Concerns

While the full impact of tire particle pollution on human health is not yet understood, concerns are growing. Researchers are diligently exploring the potential risks and effects.

Potential Solutions on the Horizon

Since embarking on this research six years ago, the team has been actively seeking ways to combat this emerging problem. The solutions may lie in a combination of factors, including improved driver behavior, correct tire maintenance, and more effective control of plastic emissions.


– University of Plymouth marine biologists have spent 20 years researching microplastic pollution in the sea.
– While known sources of microplastics include plastic bottles, bags, cosmetics, and clothing fibers, they have discovered another source: tire particles from vehicles on British roads.
– These tire particles are so small that they are virtually invisible but have been found in the marine environment, including sediments under road drains and surface waters.
– The researchers believe that tire particles could account for a significant portion of all microplastics entering the environment, possibly up to two-thirds.
– While the impact on human health is not yet fully understood, there are concerns, and efforts to reduce this form of plastic pollution may involve better driver behavior, tire adjustments, and improved plastic emissions control. Professor Richard Thompson is leading this research, which is expected to conclude next year.

The University of Plymouth’s pioneering research into microplastic pollution originating from vehicle tires is set to conclude next year. While there’s still much to learn about the effects of these hidden pollutants on both our oceans and human health, this study serves as a crucial reminder of the urgent need for sustainable and environmentally responsible practices in every aspect of our lives. Together, we can work towards reducing the impact of tire particles and safeguarding our precious marine ecosystems.

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