What microplastics have to do with the transport revolution

It is tiny and everywhere: microplastics. Scientists have already been able to detect plastic particles smaller than 5 mm in remote Arctic ice and in the digestive tracts of humans and animals. Every year, about four kilos of microplastic per capita end up in the environment in Germany. But where do these microscopic plastic particles come from?

One thing is clear: Carelessly discarded packaging, bags and bottles made of plastic do not decompose. Due to the longevity of the material, the waste can last for several centuries in our environment. Through ageing processes, however, plastic waste breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces - until they are no longer visible to the naked eye. The next time it rains, the microplastic particles are washed into the soil and groundwater.

Effects unclear

There is still a lot of research to be done on the exact extent of the effects of microplastics. However, new studies show that microplastics can damage the function of human cells. In animals, for example, swallowed plastic particles lead to inflammatory reactions and damage to the genome.

The main culprit: tyre wear

Indifferently dropped packaging and littering are by no means the only cause of plastic particles in our environment. The topic of microplastics in cosmetics and clothing has recently received a lot of attention in the media, but according to a 2018 analysis by the Fraunhofer Institute, tyre abrasion from cars is the number one cause.

In the course of its life, a tyre tread wears out considerably: up to 1.5 kg lighter than when it was manufactured, a car tyre is at the end of its life. The rubber that is loosened by friction with the asphalt is distributed in the ecosystem in the form of microplastics. Abrasion is particularly high during winding roads, high speeds and stop-and-go traffic. So the eco-balance of driving is negative not only in terms of CO2 emissions. One solution is the mobility turnaround - and thus fewer cars on our roads.

Transport revolution: The path to less microplastic

But it is not only consumers who have a duty to change something. According to the Fraunhofer study, transport, infrastructure and buildings account for around 62 percent of microplastics. One starting point is the strong growth in local freight traffic, especially delivery traffic on the so-called last mile. Whether it is food delivery or parcel delivery, if cargo bikes are used instead of diesel or electric vehicles, the amount of tyre abrasion can be greatly reduced. Compared to the abrasion of motor vehicles, which emit around 1,087g per year and per capita, cargo bikes cause only a fraction of these pollutant emissions with only 15.6g.

Advancing the transport revolution

The use of cargo bikes for delivery and logistics in inner-city areas offers companies a real alternative: they are space-saving, flexible and efficient. Cargo bikes use bicycle lanes, do not need large car parks and avoid traffic jams. In addition, they are much quieter than cars and can also be used in environmental zones. With cargo bikes, companies can do their part for the traffic turnaround - and support climate and environmental protection at the same time.

Would you like to learn more about the use of cargo bikes in delivery logistics or arrange a test drive? Then feel free to contact our experts.