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UK government targets microplastic pollution from cars

The UK government is tackling the impact of particulate and plastic pollution from brakes, tyres and road wear.

While air quality has improved significantly over recent decades, a report published on July 11 by the Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) calls for urgent action to address the problem of tyres and brakes, which is predicted to account for 10 per cent of national emissions of PM 2.5 by 2030, the UK government stated.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey and Transport Minister Michael Ellis are leading a push by the UK government to call for industry to support the development of standardised methods for measuring emissions from these sources, leading to a new international standard for tyre and brake wear.

Ellis said each time a car is driven, tiny pieces of particulate matter such as dust are released into the air from the brake wear, tyre wear and road surface wear.

“These particles enter the airstream having a detrimental impact on human health for drivers, passengers and bystanders. Plastic particles from tyres are also deposited into our sewers and lead to harmful consequences to our marine wildlife and aquatic food chains.”

Calling on the automotive industry to consider action to address the problem, Coffey said the AQEG makes clear that it is not just fumes from car exhaust pipes that have a detrimental impact on human health, but also the tiny particles that are released from their brakes and tyres.

“That is why an ambition of our Clean Air Strategy is to address all sources of particulate matter, including those from transport.

“Emissions from car exhausts have been decreasing through development of cleaner technologies and there is now a need for the car industry to find innovative ways to address the challenges of air pollution from other sources.”

Industry innovation is one way to tackle the challenge and the government is also advising drivers to consider how their driving style can reduce emissions, with gentle braking, driving at a consistent speed and using hybrid and electric vehicles with regenerative braking some of the ways to play a part.