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Use of Plastics and Toxins in Temporary Erosion and Sediment Control Practices and Products.


Temporary erosion and sediment control products (ESC products) are used during construction activities to reduce soil loss and minimize offsite-discharge of sediment-laden stormwater runoff. Historically the construction stormwater industry has relied heavily on the use of plastics for various products (e.g., erosion control blankets, turf reinforcement mats, silt fence geotextiles, etc.), due to the availability, durability, and cost. These plastics incorporated within ESC products are rarely recycled as part of the project and have the potential to break down into microplastics. Microplastics from various sources are a pollutant of emerging concern.

This issue was discussed in a recent Peer Exchange in November 2020 that reached over 150 participants from 22 different states, federal agencies, universities, and manufacturers. Hosted by the Vermont Agency of Transportation and Minnesota DOT with funding from the FHWA State Transportation Innovation Council, this peer exchange shared innovative practices involving reducing plastics and other toxic material associated with ESC products and practices.

A key takeaway from the peer exchange was that many states have or are either working towards, or have the desire to start, reducing and eliminating their dependency on plastic-based ESC products. Moreover, alternative products and practices are being developed, but are not yet widely used or available. However, implementing these changes on a state-by-state basis can be difficult and slow, whereas a coordinated effort would allow a more rapid transition toward biodegradable alternative ESC products. While the peer exchange provided an informal survey of state DOT involvement in the issue, a more systematic assessment is needed. The goal of this Transportation Research Synthesis is to provide a complete picture of the state of practice regarding plastic and alternative ESC products in the United States.


The objective of this proposed synthesis topic is to determine efforts state DOTs are currently taking to reduce or eliminate the use of plastics and toxic materials for ESC products. It will also explore the current state of availability of biodegradable and non-toxic alternative ESC products, including those created from locally produced agricultural materials.


The synthesis will aim to gather information from state DOTs across the U.S. Specifically, the topic will address which states are currently taking steps to curb the use of plastics. Below is a list of potential questions that could be included in the survey:

    • Which state DOTs prohibit plastics in ESC products?

○ How are plastics defined? ○ How is this enforced? • Which state DOTs are working towards or thinking about reducing/prohibiting plastics? ○ What are the obstacles? • What states are not interested in reducing/prohibiting plastics, and why not? • Has your DOT explored biodegradable alternative ESC products derived from locally produced materials? • Which state DOTs prohibit toxic substances from ESC products? ○ How are these defined? ○ How is this enforced? ○ Which states specifically prohibit malachite green dye from hydromulch? • Which state DOTs have looked at the question of PCBs as possible contamination in hydromulches?

· Does your state regulatory agency have requirements or regulations related to plastic or toxic compounds in ESC products?

Sponsoring Committee:AEP70, Environmental Analysis and Ecology
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Yuche Chen
Source Info: Fan Liu, Kristina Borg Olesen, Amelia Reimer Borregaard, Jes Vollertsen, (2019) Microplastics in urban and highway stormwater retention ponds, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 671.
 Coalition Clean Baltic, (2017). Guidance on concrete ways to reduce microplastic inputs from municipal stormwater and waste water discharges. Uppsala, Sweden.
 Olesen KB, Stephansen DA, van Alst N, Vollertsen J. Microplastics in a Stormwater Pond. Water. 2019; 11(7):1466. https://doi.org/10.3390/w11071466
 Kelsey Smyth, Jennifer Drake, Yourong Li, Chelsea Rochman, Tim Van Seters, Elodie Passeport, (2021). Bioretention cells remove microplastics from urban stormwater, Water Research, Volume 191.
 Fan Liu, Alvise Vianello, Jes Vollertsen, (2019). Retention of microplastics in sediments of urban and highway stormwater retention ponds, Environmental Pollution, Volume 255.
Date Posted:06/23/2021
Date Modified:07/09/2021
Index Terms:Plastics, Poisons, Pollution, Recycling, Erosion control,
Cosponsoring Committees: 

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