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Pavement causes serious plastic leakage
July 3, 2020
Plastic Soup Foundation fights all possible forms of plastic leakage, and concerned citizens help us with this. Recently we were approached by Suzanne van Knippenberg, who came across a remarkable form of plastic pollution: paving plastic in her sister’s garden.
It is now known that plastic pollutes our gardens. Usually, we are not even aware of it, but many products we use in the garden are made of plastic or contain plastic parts that wear out through use or breakdown, causing small particles to wander around.
There are many ways in which plastic ends up in the garden. For example, through garden furniture which wears out with time, plastic clips that are weathered and pulverized by the sun, toys that break or get lost. But also simple things like plastic garden tools, pots or watering cans and even compost can be sources of plastic pollution.
The pollution Suzanne informed us about concerns plastic granules between garden tiles. These grains are used mainly to protect ceramic tiles from scratches before they are laid. During transport, they provide an air buffer between the stacked tiles.
Unfortunately, these are not small quantities. The photos Suzanne sent of a new housing estate in Maastricht show a garden where hundreds, maybe even thousands, of these granules lie. Because it is a newly built garden and there are no plants yet, the grains are clearly visible, and it looks quite shocking.
The big question is, of course: why? You
should be able to prevent this easily, shouldn’t you?
REACTION OF THE PRODUCER
When asked, Façade Maastricht, the tiles supplier, states that for many types of paving, a ‘handful of granules’ per stacked layer is used. When Suzanne asked if there are laying instructions that indicate what someone should do with the granules, Façade Maastricht turns out to place the full responsibility with the paving contractor. No instructions; you should just sweep all the granules together to make sure the work is left clean.
Façade Maastricht, therefore, thinks that 95 percent of all granules can be cleaned up. This is remarkable given that in a new-build garden, there is no paving yet, and the stacked tiles are often laid on the bare ground upon delivery. It is impossible to check the underside of each slab for any remaining granules during such heavy work.
Façade Maastricht now uses biodegradable plastic granules, but cannot indicate how quickly these ‘dissolve’ in the environment. We, at the Plastic Soup Foundation, know from experience that most biodegradable or compostable plastics in the environment take a very long or even endless time to degrade.
We see this more often: producers come up with handy ways to package or protect their products and assume that things will be all right further down the chain. In this case, it’s not about the best choice, but about the simplest and probably the cheapest way. Granules can easily be sprinkled somewhere in between and are therefore practical.
Unfortunately, this spillage is not limited to
decorative paving for gardens. The problem also occurs in public street work.
For example, Suzanne’s sister found hundreds of white granules in her
neighborhood on a newly laid clinker paving.
VIEWPOINT PLASTIC SOUP FOUNDATION
Harmen Spek, Manager Innovations & Solutions of Plastic Soup Foundation: ‘What matters here is the risk of leakage; what are the chances of this material ending up in the environment? That risk is very high. Passing the problem on to thousands of pavers is a bit too easy. It is better to look at natural protective equipment, such as cork and wood. That may cost a little more, and it may also be a little less practical, but it prevents permanent damage caused by plastic, for which the producer rather than the road builder is responsible’.