New study: Characterizing export of land-based microplastics to the estuary – Part I: Application of integrated geospatial microplastic transport models to assess tire and road wear particles in the Seine watershed

Model estimates indicated that 18% of TRWP release was transported to freshwater and 2% was exported to the estuary.


Water splash with droplet
Water splash taken with a color flashlight and a macro lens

Human and ecological exposure to micro- and nanoplastic materials (abbreviated as MP, < 5 mm) occurs in both aquatic and terrestrial environments. Recent reviews prioritize the need for assessments linking spatially distributed MP releases with terrestrial and freshwater transport processes, thereby providing a better understanding of the factors affecting MP distribution to the sea.

Tire and road wear particles (TRWP) have an estimated generation rate of 1 kg tread inhabitant−1 year−1 in Europe, but the fate of this MP source in watersheds has not been systematically assessed.

An integrated temporally and geospatially resolved watershed-scale MP modeling methodology was applied to TRWP fate and transport in the Seine (France) watershed.

The mass balance considers TRWP generation and terrestrial transport to soil, air, and roadways, as well as freshwater transport processes including particle heteroaggregation, degradation and sedimentation within subcatchments.

The model estimates indicated that 18% of TRWP release was transported to freshwater and 2% was exported to the estuary, which demonstrated the potential for appreciable capture, degradation, and retention of TRWP prior to export.

The modeled pseudo-steady state sediment concentrations were consistent with measurements from the Seine watershed supporting the plausibility of the predicted trapping efficiency of approximately 90%.

The approach supported the efficient completion of local and global sensitivity analyses presented in Part II of this study, and can be adapted to the assessment of other MPs.

This study was sponsored by the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers Association (ETRMA)

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