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Addressing Microplastics: How GEOWEB® Geocells Contribute to Eco-friendly Soil Stabilization Practices

geoweb channel with no microplastics symbol

Written by: José Pablo George, M.S., CPESC-IT, International Business Manager

Microplastics, tiny plastic particles smaller than five millimeters, present a potential hazard to both wildlife and marine organisms. As revealed by a global microplastics database provided by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), plastic is the dominant type of marine debris in the ocean and the Great Lakes. These microplastics, usually originating from single-use, disposable plastics on land, are transported via rivers and wind into global circulation systems where they accumulate.

International Measures and Guidelines: A Proactive Response to Plastic Pollution

The United Nations Environment Programme´s Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee and Environment Assembly have adopted an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution to address plastic pollution throughout its life cycle. Given the array of different types of plastics, the Sea Studios Foundation, in conjunction with, the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, the WHO International Programme on Chemical Safety, and the US EPA, has published a Smart Plastics Guide. This guide outlines seven commonly used plastic types and their potential health hazards.

There are some plastics (often used for disposable packaging) that are not easily recycled and may contain harmful chemicals posing health issues. Others, such as PET and HDPE, are easily recycled, pose no known health issues, and can be used beneficially in environmental applications. Given the potentially harmful effects of microplastics on human health and the environment, it’s crucial to consider the types of plastics we use and their complete life cycle.

Geocells: An Environmentally Safe Solution for Soil Stabilization

For over four decades, the GEOWEB® Geocells, which are manufactured from premium high-density polyethylene (HDPE) resin, have been used for soil stabilization. They interact directly with soil and water systems without posing significant environmental risks. This HDPE material, free of fillers, polymer alloys, and compatibilizers, is akin to those used in environmental applications like geomembranes to prevent the spread of harmful toxins.

Third-party geosynthetic laboratories have confirmed the GEOWEB Geocells’ long-term stability against environmental factors, including weathering and oxidation. According to EN ISO 13438 analysis, they are expected to last at least 100 years in natural soil. Furthermore, even under UV radiation and accelerated weathering conditions per EN 12224, GEOWEB specimens maintain their original tensile strength, appearance, and mass.

The Danger of Microplastics in Polymer Blends

This isn’t true for all geocells, however. Some manufacturers advocate for the use of polymeric alloys containing nylon and polyester particles “dispersed in a polyethylene matrix.” Essentially, this means blending materials typically incompatible with HDPE, requiring the use of specialized chemicals, or compatibilizers, to ensure compatibility. Research indicates that such polymer blends may be a significant source of microplastics in the environment, particularly as alloys age more rapidly due to weathering. This aging process can lead to the production of microplastics as the blended components break down.

microplastics and polymer blends image

Geosynthetic Soil Stabilization: A Response to Climate Change

Well-designed geosynthetic soil stabilization systems, using high-quality, HDPE-only geocells (a “good” plastic), can help mitigate the long-term impacts of climate change. With its durability parameters, structural integrity, and system performance, the GEOWEB Geocells are an environmentally safe choice for soil stabilization and water needs. Crafted from sturdy high-density polyethylene (HDPE) since its inception, GEOWEB geocells provide the highest, longest-lasting, and most proven performance in civil applications.

workers installing geocells on streambank

Presto Geosystems guarantees quality and offers more than 40 years of expertise. We ensure each shipment meets or exceeds our specifications, so you can build with materials you trust. No hidden terms or concerning fine print. Just strength, from the ground up, since 1979.

See Sustainable Environmental Contributions for the GEOWEB® System.