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

K. M. Unice*, M. P. Weeber, M. M. Abramson, R. C.D. Reid, J. A.G. van Gils, A. A. Markus, A. D. Vethaak, J. M. Panko

*Corresponding author for this work

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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 per capita TRWP mass release estimate in the Seine watershed was 1.8 kg inhabitant −1 yr −1 . The model estimates indicated that 18% of this 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1639-1649
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date27 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


This work was funded by the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers' Association (ETRMA) , a trade organization representing tyre and rubber producers in Europe. The modeling presented here made use of concepts and tools developed in the project SOLUTIONS, which is supported by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement no. 603437 . The authors acknowledge the use of the output from the pan-European hydrology model E-Hype, provided by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. Four of the authors (KMU, MMA, RCDR, and JMP) are employed by Cardno ChemRisk, a consulting firm based in the United States that provides scientific advice to the government, corporations, law firms, and various scientific/professional organizations. The remaining four authors (MPW, JAGvG, AAM and ADV) are employed by Deltares, an independent applied research institute based in the Netherlands. The presented work was prepared and written exclusively by the authors. Comments on the methodology and approach were provided by a Science Advisory panel of independent experts organized by ETRMA consisting of Prof. Dr. Ing. Martin Jekel (Technical University of Berlin, Institute of Technical Environmental Protection, Department of Water Quality Control, Germany) and Dr. Emeric Frejafon (INERIS, France). The panel provided independent scientific feedback without influence by ETRMA or its members. We wish to express our appreciation for the valuable feedback provided by Prof. Jekel and Dr. Frejafon. We also thank Erin Hynds for assistance with the identification and compilation of literature, and Dr. Marisa Kreider for thoughtful suggestions on the presentation of the study. Appendix A

FundersFunder number
European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers' Association
European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers?
Sveriges Meteorologiska och Hydrologiska Institut
Seventh Framework Programme603437


    • Freshwater
    • Integrated model
    • Microplastic
    • Particle transport
    • Sedimentation
    • Tire and road wear particles


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