What is microplastic?

There is currently no official and globally recognised definition for microplastics. The different meanings differ slightly. In our view, plastic particles with a size of less than 5 mm are microplastics.

We differentiate between primary and secondary microplastics on the basis of their origin. Primary microplastic type A is already smaller than 5 mm during the production phase. Primary microplastic type B is created during the use of larger plastic parts. A prominent example of this is tyre abrasion. Secondary microplastics result from fragmentation or weathering of macroplastics in the environment, e.g. uncontrolled waste disposal. The term littering is often used for this.

The ten biggest polluters in Germany

Study by the Fraunhofer Institute determines the emitters of microplastics.

According to this study from 2018, a total of around 4 kg of primary microplastics per person, per year are released into the environment in Germany.  Type B dominates with a share of 89%. By far the largest cause is tyre abrasion, especially from cars, with a total of 998 g/head/year. In position six, we have distribution via construction sites. By far the largest share of this group is abrasion from demolition work at 90 g/head/year, followed by the processing of plastics on construction sites (25.4 g/head/year). Geotextiles are not explicitly named. The group "Abrasion of plastics used in agriculture" is in 12th place and no longer in the top 10. A further subdivision of this group cannot be found in the study.

Yearly quantities released per person

To the study: www.umsicht.fraunhofer.deSource: Frauenhofer UMSICHT 2018, own representation

 

Technical textiles account for approximately 0.6% of annual plastics production

When assessing the emitters of microplastics, it is also helpful to look at the production quantities of plastic. Approximately 360 million tonnes of plastic are produced worldwide each year. The share of technical textiles made of synthetic filament fibres is 34.5 million tonnes or 9.6%. The share of this processed in the construction industry is much lower at 1.4%. This includes a large proportion of textiles used in building construction (75% of the 1.4%). According to our own estimates, we assume that the share in the geosynthetics and agriculture sectors is a maximum of 0.57% or around 2 million tonnes. This includes the large market for simple gardening and landscaping textiles. Technically sophisticated textiles such as those offered by HUESKER are, in our opinion, less than 1 million tonnes (0.28%). However, we have no neutral and reliable statistics on this.

High safety through technical textiles

We make our contribution to improving environmental sustainability.

The risk of micro-plastic emissions from our technical textiles is very low and easily controlled, as our products are explicitly designed for a long service life. Microplastics can only be caused by mechanical, chemical or photochemical stress in the following four steps of the product life cycle and can be reduced to a minimum if used correctly.

HUESKER Microplastics Management

Here we explain the environmental performance of technical textiles in comparison to conventional construction methods. Beyond the product advantages, we are constantly working on optimising our processes to achieve further ecological effects. Even though the microplastic emissions of our products are extremely low, we strive to reduce them even further to an absolute minimum. Find out what specific measures HUESKER is taking to improve environmental protection.

Production
  • Efficient use of materials
  • Recycling of waste
  • Avoidance of plastic packaging
Building design
  • Optimal choice of materials
  • Use of local resources
  • Reduction steel & concrete
Installation
  • Installation Recommendations
  • Avoidance of protruding remains
  • Disposal of packaging & waste
Use
  • Advice for the builders / designers
  • Exchange of textiles
  • Research for prevention
Disposal/Recycling
  • Taking back removed products
  • Supply of thermal recycling
  • Recycling
Product design
  • High quality, durable products
  • Recycled yarn
  • Biodegradable raw materials

HUESKER measures Production

  • Sensitisation of suppliers / supplier evaluation
  • 100% recycling of unmixed production waste
  • Minimisation of the amount of production waste
  • We avoid unnecessary plastic packaging
    • Reusable packaging developed in-house for internal transport
    • Around 500000 fewer plastic bags per year for yarn packaging
    • No disposable cups for use with hot drink machines
    • Changeover to new transport packaging (using more recycled material)
  • Research and development of new products made of biodegradable or similar materials
  • Product line ecoLine made of 100% recycled polyester yarns

HUESKER measures Installation

  • Recommendation sheet for avoiding microplastics during installation and distribution handed out to all partners
  • Advice to construction companies and installers to store products correctly and dispose of outer packaging properly.
  • Proper disposal of surplus textiles

 

HUESKER measures Use

  • Advice for building owners, construction companies and designers or planning engineering offices with regard to the right choice of raw materials
  • Alternative raw materials that are resistant even under alkaline conditions (PVA)
  • Participation in research projects to avoid or treat pollutants in road traffic caused by surface water
  • Participation in research projects to avoid microplasty
  • Exchange of technical textiles if necessary

HUESKER measures Deconstruction

  • Development of recommendations for the development of geosynthetics that reduce mechanical stress
  • Development of a waste disposal concept for our customers in the construction industry
    • Taking back removed geotextiles
    • Supply of correct thermal recycling
    • Reprocessing and recycling

HUESKER Product line ecoLine

  • 100% original fibre quality from 100% recycled PET fibres
  • Reduction of CO2 emissions
  • Saving resources by reusing recycled PET bottles
  • Comparably high quality compared to geogrids made from original fibers


To the ecoLine website

Environmental Product Declaration

  • HUESKER is the official partner for sustainable construction of the Institut Bauen und Umwelt e.V.
  • Sustainability assessment on a scientific basis
  • Transparent publishing of all information including life cycle assessment data
  • Highest quality for sustainable building


Certificates