While a lesser-known culprit, the tires of our vehicles are one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution. Every time a car brakes, accelerates, or turns a corner, its tires gradually shed tiny particles that become airborne and make their way into our waterways. In Europe, alone, the amount of microplastic pollution from tire wear amounts to 500,000 tons, making it the largest microplastic pollutant in the oceans after single-use plastics.
Well aware of this urgent problem, a group of students from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art has invented an innovative device that captures microplastic particles from tires as they are emitted.
The device, which recently won a James Dyson award, is designed to be positioned close to the wheel and uses electrostatics to collect charged particles flying off the tire. Under a controlled environment, the prototype collected 60 percent of all airborne particles from tires.
Using ink made from the captured fragments, the students have printed themselves business cards. But other potential applications include 3D printing, soundproofing or even recycling the tire dust into new tires.
Having won the national competition, the invention will participate in the international contest for the final leg of the James Dyson award in November, where they can win £30,000 in prize money, on top of the £2,000 given to national winners.