Air quality - Take a deep breath | Bucher Municipal | United Kingdom

Air quality - Take a deep breath

Simple solution to improve your air quality

How do we measure air quality?

Air quality is measured by how clean the surrounding air is. This is done by analysing the concentration of certain pollutants in the air including smoke, dust, smog and harmful chemicals such as Nitric Oxide (NO), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Hydrocarbons (HC), Volatile organic compounds (VOC), Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO), heavy metals and most notably, Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5

Why should we care
about our air quality?

Most air pollutants are in the form of gas, but inhalable Particular Matter such as dust, smog, smoke and soot are common in cities.

The main source of PM emissions is from road traffic and their internal combustion engines and dust. These particulates settle on roadways and pathways, then when a vehicle drives over it, the gusts produced from that movement cause the particulates to be airborne, mixing with the air and lowering the air quality. These particulates can be carcinogenic and are the main cause of human health issues from poor air quality. They can be inhaled and deposited on the surfaces of the airways and lungs. The exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 has been shown to have a significant detriment to lung and heart health and an increase in respiratory diseases such as asthma. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is responsible for an estimated 7 million premature deaths each year worldwide. Therefore, reduced air pollution indicates better health for those who spend a significant amount of time on and around roadways.

What can we do to tackle air quality?

Key Visual Truck Mounted Sweepers

Street sweeping

Merely reducing the number of vehicles on the road in high polluted places wouldn’t completely eradicate the issue, although road dust accounts for up to 10% of total PM emissions in urban areas, natural events such as dust clouds and volcanic eruptions also produce PM10 and PM2.5 which settle onto roadways, waiting to be blown back up into the air.

To tackle the air quality produced by road traffic, many cities and towns in the UK have implemented measures such as low-emission zones and congestion charges. However, a simple, low-tech solution to these measures that also reduces harmful particulates from natural sources is often overlooked: road sweeping.

A simple solution

Road sweepers are one of the best vehicles to operate on roads that combat this significant public health issue. Not only do they clear up litter and debris, but road sweepers collect the dangerous Particulate Matter that sits on roadways. Bucher’s range of compact and truck mounted sweepers collect these loose particulates by atomising water to increase the weight of the debris. Once wet, these particulates can no longer go airborne and can be effectively swept up and contained within the sweeper.


Rainfall has been shown to 99% effective for air quality improvement, showing that wet collection when sweeping is better than dry. Therefore, sweepers with vacuum suction are more effective than mechanical solutions - especially in the summer months when the road is dry with less frequent rainfall. Although often seen as a rainy place, the average annual precipitation for the UK is only 133 days annually, just over a third of the days of the year. Even when it does rain, it needs to be heavy enough to saturate the roads in order to effectively trap the particles and stop them becoming airborne.

Mega city

Other air borne pollutants

Sweeping reduces other pollutants that may be released into the air. For example, heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and zinc are often present in road dust and can be harmful to both human health and the environment. Sweeping reduces the amount of these heavy metals on the road surface by up to 85%. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are also harmful to human health and often found in areas with poor air quality. Studies show road sweeping could reduce NO2 concentrations by up to 10%, and black carbon (a major contributor to climate change and a potent air pollutant that causes respiratory problems) concentrations by up to 33%. Sweeping removes oil and other hydrocarbons that are present on the road surface, another source of air pollution. In a study conducted in Bristol, UK, researchers found that street sweeping reduced nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations by up to 12%.

Street washing

Street washing is another effective way to combat air quality. The City of London measured the air particulate levels in the very busy Blackwall tunnel. After a full tunnel wash they found the quality of the air drastically improved and the levels of both PM10 and PM2.5 reduced significantly. You can turn your sweeper into a water flushing vehicle with simple add-ons to perform similar jobs.

Sweeping can also reduce the amount of dust that enters buildings, improving indoor air quality

The effects of traffic on air quality

One of the greatest contributors to air quality in urban areas is vehicle internal combustion engines.

Does the time you sweep make a difference in air quality?

Studies have shown that on busy dual carriageways the air quality improves (up to 100%) after being swept by a road sweeper. But this improvement only lasted approximately 3 hours before the levels started to increase again due to the amount of traffic frequenting the roadways.

To combat this issue, road sweepers need to increase the frequency they are out on the road in a day. Research showed the optimum time to wash and sweep roads was 5-6am in order to reduce the amount of road emissions during peak morning traffic. Then at least one other wash and sweep would be required before the peak of afternoon traffic congestion.

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Time and location of sweeping 
have further impacts on air quality 

Urban area, Scandinavia


The National Trust found that road sweeping helps reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that enters rivers and streams. This improves water quality, affecting human health through cleaner water and maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Urban area, Scandinavia


Road sweeping improves the appearance of our streets and pavements, making them more inviting for pedestrians and cyclists. This has a positive impact on public health, as it encourages people to be more active and get outside more often.

V65 Hannover Shoot


Road sweepings contain a range of pollutants, including heavy metals, which is harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly. It is essential that road sweepings are disposed of in accordance with environmental regulations to prevent them from becoming a source of pollution themselves.

How can we help you?

At Bucher Municipal we can support your initiatives to improve air quality and have specific solutions which have a proven impact on the particulates added to the environment. By implementing alternative fuels into your sweeping routine you further reduce the impact of carcinogenic particulates in the ambient environment.

The MaxPowaV65e and CityCatV20e are both sweepers which use 100% electric drive trains. By using fully electric sweepers, not only are the sweepers improving the air quality of the roads, but they aren’t contributing to any additional particulates when compared to running on diesel combustion engines.

The studies investigated the importance of maintaining a low level of PM10 and PM2.5 through road sweeping. There is no doubt a long way to go until air pollution levels can match the optimum levels achieved during lockdown, but by collaborating with Bucher Municipal we can help and support you in your aspirations to improve air quality. In conclusion, regular road sweeping is a simple yet effective way to improve air quality in the UK.

By removing dirt, dust, and debris from our streets, we can reduce the amount of harmful particulate matter in the air and improve the health of local residents. With the continued focus on reducing air pollution, it is important to explore all possible solutions, and road sweeping is certainly one worth considering.

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