Alumni from Innovation Design Engineering at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art want to raise awareness of a road pollution source we rarely consider: tire wear. If you think about it, it is obvious. Our tires wear out, and that has to go somewhere, but what surprises us is how fast it happens. Single-use plastic is the most significant source of oceanic pollution, but tire microplastics are next on the naughty list. The team calls themselves The Tyre Collective, and they’re working on a device to collect tire particles at the source.
Tires become positively charged as you drive, like a Van De Graaff generator, so the team postulates that the most efficient way to collect the waste is to mount electrostatically charged plates where the plastics discharge. Road dust should pass through instead of gumming up the system since it is not charged. In an odd twist, hybrid vehicles are more dangerous regarding this type of pollution than their 100% petrol counterparts since they have to support a battery and electric motor.
When the tire dust is collected, it isn’t dumped out, because it can be reused as a pigment or even refined back into new tires. They’re collecting 60% of thrown particles in a lab setting, and they’re improving. What goes around comes around.