In 2014, Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) was established to reduce and eliminate the unsustainable disposal of tyres that have reached the end of their life. Since then, it’s been hard at work establishing a framework for how Australian individuals and businesses can reduce their environmental impact by recycling tyres, or disposing of them in a sustainable manner.
Have we been doing enough?
The short answer is ‘no’. Every year, Australians dispose of around 50 million tyres that have reached the end of their life. Of that number, only around 5% are recycled locally. The rest are either disposed of in landfills, kept in stockpiles, dumped illegally or exported.
However, the news is not all bad. Recently, rubberised road products made from recycled tyres have been used in the construction and maintenance of roads in Victoria. While this is not the first time that rubberised road materials have been used in Australia, the scale on which these products are being used and the extent to which they are being derived from recycled tyres is increasing.
Rubberised road products such as asphalt and spray seal provide many benefits over other materials, including a quieter and more durable driving surface, and improved water drainage. These results have been seen in the United States, where tyre derived road materials have been in use for many years.
Why we should be recycling tyres
By increasing our efforts to recycle old tyres, not only will we be reducing the negative environmental impact of our current practices, but we will also turn a waste product into a useful and valuable resource.
- Environmental impacts:Tyres are highly combustible, difficult to extinguish, and produce harmful chemical toxins and pollutants when burned. In 2015, a stockpile of 30,000 tyres in Moyston Victoria was ignited during bushfire season.
- Recycling benefits:Recycling old tyres has the potential to create new industry opportunities and jobs. Turning old tyres into road materials, as mentioned above, is only one of the potential uses for end-of-life tyres.
Turning old tyres into new products also has the potential to significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions since recycling old tyres is a more efficient process than producing new rubber.
Reducing our need for new rubber products will also reduce our need for rubber tree plantations which allow us to preserve more native forests.
How can used tyres be recycled?
There are a wide variety of uses for tyres that have reached the end of their life. Rubber has many useful properties that can be used in different ways once a tyre can no longer be driven on. Some of the products that can be made from recycled tyres include:
- Road surfaces
- Athletics tracks
- Soft fall surfaces for playgrounds
- Rubber brake pads
- Flooring for industrial and commercial premises
- Building insulation
- Alternative fuel
- New tyre manufacturing
Part of the TSA’s work is to promote and fund research into innovative new ways that end-of-life tyres can be recycled or repurposed. This means that this list of products will grow as time goes on and more recycled tyre products are designed and developed.
What you can do to help
A simple thing that you can do to help reduce the environmental impact of discarded tyres is to always ensure that your own tyres, or those of your business, are recycled or disposed of sustainably. If everyone did this, then we could effectively eliminate the problem.
You can ensure that your end-of-life tyres go to sustainable end uses by asking what will happen to your old tyres when you get new tyres for your car. Many industry leaders in tyre manufacturing and retail have now partnered with the TSA and adhere to the objectives and operating principles of tyre sustainability.
If you are part of a business that produces a large number of end-of-life tyres every year, for example, if you have a fleet of cars or industrial vehicles, then it is especially important that you know your tyres are being disposed of responsibly. There is a large number of tyre recycling businesses that have been accredited by the TSA for their sustainable practices. You can get in touch with one of these businesses to organise a tyre recycling for your business.
About the Author
Axis Industrial Tyres are experts in tyres for use on industrial and commercial vehicles, including forklifts and skidsteers.