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Industry acts on escalating tyre disposal problem

Aussie hoops: Recycling tyre rubber is a difficult process because of the various components in a tyre including a significant amount of steel.

New industry-led program to tackle widespread problems with end-of-life tyres

3 Jun 2014

A NATIONAL industry-led initiative addressing the escalating problem posed by around 50 million tyres requiring disposal every year in Australia officially starts on July 1.

Known as the Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme, the program aims to stamp out illegal dumping practices, reduce the mammoth and ever-increasing stockpile of discarded tyres entering the waste stream, and boost the rate of recycling which is currently at about 16 per cent in Australia.

Around 66 per cent – some 33 million tyres – are disposed of as landfill, stockpiled or illegally dumped each year. A significant portion is also exported, although part of the problem – to be tackled by the new scheme – is that accurate records are not available.

At last count by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were almost 17.2 million registered motor vehicles across the nation (as at January 31, 2013), with an average annual growth rate of 2.4 per cent over the previous five years.

The new tyre stewardship program is being managed by representatives from across the tyre supply chain including manufacturers, retailers, recyclers and collectors, and is backed by the Australian Motor Industry Federation and the Minerals Council of Australia.

The scheme is authorised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and has received support from federal and state and territory governments.

Funding is being raised with a levy of 25 cents on every new tyre sold in Australia.

Tyre manufacturers involved in the program – including Continental, Goodyear-Dunlop, Michelin, Pirelli, Toyo and Yokohama – have also provided financial support.

According to Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA), which is the body set up to implement the scheme, the funds will be ploughed into industry and consumer education, independent auditing designed to eradicate dirty, unsafe and illegal practices, and research and development on new uses for the recycled raw materials.

A typical tyre contains around 7kg of rubber, 1.5kg of steel and 500g of textiles.

Material from recycled tyres is currently used in road construction, a variety of other surfaces (such as soft landings on playgrounds), brake pads, industrial and domestic flooring, tile adhesive, draining aggregates and fuel.

With the latter, crumbed rubber is now being used as a diesel fuel substitute in explosive compounds in the mining industry.

“The scheme has the potential to play an important role in reducing the volume of used tyres entering the domestic waste stream or being exported overseas and burned for fuel in an environmentally unsustainable way,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.

“This will reduce the environmental and health and safety hazards associated with such disposal methods.”

TSA chairman Gerry Morvell said the rate of recycling had contracted in Australia due to “unsustainable tyre disposal” and that a two-fold increase in old tyres being exported to less-developed countries over the past seven years had “further undermined investments and the viability of domestic recycling activity”.

“Participation in the Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme will ensure that this trend is reversed,” he said.

“It will lead to the ongoing development of new manufacturing processes, new job opportunities and entirely new industries that utilise the recycled tyre feedstock.” Federal environment minister Greg Hunt said participating members of the Australian Tyre Industry Council had overcome competitive pressures in order to “improve the industry and create better outcomes locally, nationally and globally”.

“It’s about new products and new industries emerging from what was considered a waste problem,” he said.

“I don’t think there are many better examples of co-operation that does the right thing by industry and the right thing by the environment.”

There is no national database on the stockpile of discarded tyres in Australia, which is an area to be addressed under the new program.

The auditing process will ensure that participants are meeting their commitments, such as ensuring that end-of-life tyres go to an environmentally sound use, while TSA will in turn promote the companies involved.

Consumers will also soon be able to identify TSA participants via signage at retail outlets.

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