Microplastics originating from road markings: A significant overestimate?

, Burghardt Tomasz, Pashkevich Anton, Mosböck Harald.

Numerous literature reports point to horizontal road markings as significant sources of microplastic pollution. There are claims that even 7% of all microplastics originate from road markings and according to a German report, the contribution reaches 19.3-121.1 g/person/year. However, one must consider that these estimates presume that “paint sales data is assumed to equal the paint wear minus new and replacement roads”. From the perspective of road marking industry, such assumption is incorrect in vast majority of cases: horizontal road markings are renewed when they lose their retroreflective properties, which occurs before paint is worn and converted into dust. To verify the industrial claims, field testing was undertaken; preliminary results are reported herein. Indeed, samples collected from various roads show the presence of several layers of markings. Furthermore, measurements of retroreflectivity done on several roads confirm that renewals took place before there was a loss of glass beads protecting the colour layer from abrasion. Thus, the reported estimates appear to significantly overrepresent the contribution of road markings to microplastic pollution, at least in cases of well-maintained roads. Understanding of the technology of road markings and their renewal process is seen as critical for accurate estimates of their contribution to microplastic pollution. It must be emphasised that appropriate maintenance of horizontal road markings can essentially eliminate this source of microplastics and modern, durable materials further limit such risk.

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