Highways England will undertake research to identify whether there is a link between road water runoff and the level of microplastic pollution found in water samples.
Research published late last year identified that tyre particles are a significant source of microplastics in the world’s oceans and rivers.
For the first part of this project, the government agency has identified the suitable methods for collecting and analysing samples of road runoff to establish the presence or absence of microplastics.
Highways England has said they hope that by analysing these samples it will enable them to better understand the scale of this issue and ensure that the understanding of the environmental effects associated with the Strategic Road Network (SRN) is up to date and that the assessment and design guidance standards which is published and maintained in the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) is robust.
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 outcome of further research will be the evidence base to inform future decision making, enabling us to take positive action to manage identified risks, inform policy and identify further areas of research.’
Helen Wakeham, environment agency deputy director of water quality, groundwater & contaminated Land, added: ‘This research contributes to the work we do with partners to understand the sources and scale of microplastic pollution.
‘We supported this research by Highways England as it provided a valuable review into the current knowledge of the potential scale of microplastic and chemical pollution from highways. We look forward to continuing work with Highways England on this important topic as the work progresses. This will help us better understand the contribution from the road network as a source of microplastics and emerging chemicals of concern entering the environment.’
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