Microplastics run off

07 January 2021 | Muriel Cozier

‘We have undertaken this research…to better understand the potential contribution that road transport has on microplastics.’

The UK Government’s Highways England is conducting research to identify whether water running off of roads, affects the level of microplastics in the environment.

Following academic desktop studies, funding has been secured to investigate the issue through ‘on road’ studies. This work will provide the evidence base to inform future decision making so that action can be taken to manage identified risks. The research is described as a ‘key step in understanding the contribution of the strategic road network to microplastic pollution within the terrestrial and aquatic environment.’

Michael Whitehead, Principal Advisor for Water at Highways England said; ‘Highways England takes environmental issues seriously and recognises the global concern around microplastic pollution. We have undertaken this research, together with the Environment Agency and other industry experts, to better understand the potential contribution that road transport has on microplastics.

The project team added that work already completed has ‘identified the critical knowledge gaps that should be addressed … to enable us to understand the extent and implications of microplastic runoff from roads and measures that should be put in place to limit this environmental contamination.’

The first stage of research, which has just been published, involved identifying suitable methods to collect and analyse samples of road runoff to establish the presence, or absence, of microplastics.

Highways England, which operates, maintains and improves England’s motorways and major A roads, added that the research will allow it to better understand the scale and nature of the issue, and identify any steps needed to inform changes to its current policies or design standards.

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