URBANFILTER: Filtering out microplastics where they are created

The Audi Environmental Foundation is funding a project by the Technical University (TU) of Berlin to research innovative filter solutions in road gullies. A multi-stage filter system is intended to prevent the microplastic particles caused by tire wear from entering the sewer system and waterways.

06/18/2021 Reading Time: 1 min

One negative environmental impact of driving that most people are not aware of is the amount of microplastics caused by tire wear while driving. Tire wear is one of the largest sources of microplastics entering the environment. In Germany alone, the amount of tire wear is over 100,000 tons per year. Sewage treatment plants are not able to hold back microplastics. Reaching the sewage system unfiltered they are a danger to natural waterways and ultimately also to us humans. Therefore, the Environmental Foundation is funding a project with the Technical University of Berlin, Department of Urban Water Management, which is researching an innovative filter system for road gullies that is intended to reduce the entry of microplastics and other pollutants into the sewer system. The project was launched in September 2020 and is scheduled to run for around three years.


So far, nine different modules have been developed for the road, sewer and drain area, which, depending on the catchment area of ​​a gully, can be configured to optimally hold back various pollutants such as microplastics, plastic packaging, cigarette butts, dog droppings or leaves. Starting with a runoff channel on the road or a special asphalt cover, in the area below various filter baskets can be installed in the sewer and in the lowest area there is a fine filtration with a magnetic filter.

The fact that more tire wear particles are produced in stop-and-go traffic or at traffic lights is also taken into account. An intelligent networking concept is considering parameters such as traffic volume, weather forecast and street cleaning. The evaluation of various data enables a prognosis for the optimal time to empty the filter as well as the predictive use of street cleaning vehicles in order to remove the pollutants from the road before they are captured by the rainwater flowing off.


The first prototypes are tested and optimized on a special test stand at the TU of Berlin with the addition of different defined types of dirt particles and different rain intensities. In the next stage, the developed filter system is to be operated on an in-situ test track in Berlin.