Highways England to study link between road water and microplastics

It is expected to help the government company to better understand the scale of the issue, the nature of the problem and identify any further detailed research to inform changes to its current policy or design standards

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Highways England has launched a study to investigate whether surface water that runs off roads affects the level of microplastics in the environment.

The research is expected to help the government company – responsible for motorways and major A roads – to better understand the scale of the issue, the nature of the problem and identify any further detailed research to inform changes to its current policy or design standards.

The work will also ensure Highway England’s understanding of the environmental effects associated with the Strategic Road Network (SRN) is up to date and the assessment and design guidance standards published and maintained in the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) are robust.

The first stage involved identifying suitable methods to collect and analyse samples of road runoff to establish the presence or absence of microplastics.

It found the critical knowledge gaps that should be addressed going forward to help understand the extent and implications of microplastic runoffs from roads and measures that need to be put into place to limit this environmental contamination.

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.”

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