Due to increasing population and increasing car ownership around the world, last year the tyre industry sold over 3 billion tyres to the public. This is a staggering amount of tyres and with each tyre weighing on average 7.5kg that is 22.5 Million tonnes of End of Life Tyres (ELT’s) produced each year.
So where do all these tyres go once they are no longer road worthy? The sad thing is that ELT’s are not easily recycled and the cost for disposal is a clear indication of this. For many years in the UK tyres were sent to landfill or buried in the ground. This is now against EU regulations because the tyres will leak toxins into soil and water causing pollution.
Since the change in regulations in the EU millions of pounds has gone into research as to how we deal with the ongoing tyre problems of the next decade. Tyres can be used as fuel as they contain a lot of energy but can produce harmful toxins when burned. Other options are to shred the rubber and repurpose for rubber matting for playgrounds or for use on railway tracks which helps to reduce vibrations of the train for the passengers.
Some recycling companies will now seperate good tyres coming in from end of life vehicles to resell on as part worn tyres. Often when vehicles are scrapped they may have at least 1 good tyre that can be resold as a part worn tyre, rather than just sending these to be reprocessed good recycling companies will make sure these roadworthy tyres are reused and resold to go back onto vehicles
India has recently been experimenting on creating new roads with a mixture of old plastic and rubber solutions to create a real use for waste products. As the technology continues to evolve and real world uses for end of life tyres become available we will start to see ELT’s become a recycled product with a positive value so we will see companies start to collect these as there is money to be made which will divert away from landfill and fly tipping.
In Sweden there is a project that is in its infancy that is working on a more circular economy approach. Scientists there are working on a process that would take old end of life tyres and repurpose them back into new tyres. This sort of process would be groundbreaking and could flip the recycling of tyres on its head and make ELT’s valuable and create a recycling economy around them
The next 10 years are crucial to ensuring that we are producing a sustainable solution for end of life tyres.