Waste Not – Want not
The story of a successful industry initiative
The EU Landfill Directive prohibited the landfill of whole tyres from 1 July 2003 in all EU states and will ban the landfill of shredded tyres by 1 July 2006. Fortunately, however, the UK has a well-developed collection system and a diverse recycling infrastructure for old tyres when compared to many countries. Currently most of Britain’s tyres end up in some kind of beneficial re-use.
Britain’s motorists, hauliers and others collectively generate over 400,000 tonnes of waste tyres annually. Industry estimates suggest that at least three quarters of these are already re-used in some form or other. Some of the many ways in which tyres can be reused include as fuel, carpet underlay, recreational surfaces and in the form of granulates. In the truck sector retreading is a highly efficient re-use of a worn tyre. Using tyres as fuel for cement kilns is another way of re-using large quantities of tyres.
And there is considerable remaining capacity for the UK’s cement kilns to take additional tonnage. At the same time the number of new uses for old tyres continues to increase. The fact that tyres have a very high calorific value means, as a fuel, they are not dissimilar to coal. Furthermore, when burned as a co-fuel, tyres can improve the general combustion quality considerably.
For all of these reasons tyre manufacturers, with the help of the TIC’s Responsible Recycler Scheme, are confident that the UK will continue to meet the terms of this major EU directive. If there is a downside to this positive story it is that beneficial and responsible recycling comes at a price – albeit a modest one. However small though, it is a price that a few companies still seem unwilling to pay.
To promote some more robust standards in the collection and disposal of end-of-life tyres and to help eradicate the scourge of ‘fly-tipping’ and rogue operators, Tyre Industry Council launched its Responsible Recycler Scheme in late 1999 and although just five years old, this flagship initiative has come a long way in a short time. Though initially restricted to just tyre collection companies, it was quickly realised that the commonality of interests between collectors and reprocessers demanded that the Scheme’s remit be widened to include reprocessors as well.
Behind the formation of the scheme was the clear recognition that used tyre collection and re-processing were businesses which deserved recognition in their own right and which together had an important role to play in helping tyre manufacturers, retailers and indeed government itself to meet the EU Landfill Directive on used tyres. Those leading the scheme realised at an early stage that whether or not the concept of producer responsibility was introduced into the UK there was a need for collectors and re-processors alike to adopt concepts of “best practice” in response to the challenges ahead. That is why today the scheme puts great emphasis on its audit regime and believes it can demonstrate full traceability, something that is essential for maintaining a good reputation.
For the TIC, transparency, traceability and accountability are cornerstones of its scheme. Responsible retailers, fleet companies and other tyre users that work with scheme members are guaranteed that the tyres collected by the Responsible Recycler Scheme companies are disposed of in an environmentally friendly and acceptable method. Whether they are recycled or used as fuel in cement kilns, the Responsible Recycler Scheme helps its members comply with their duty of care obligations as well as protecting the environment.
As a measure of its success the scheme continues to grow and to attract international interest. From a single founder member in 1999, it now has reached a temporary ‘high’ of 22, with more applications in the pipeline. In fact such is the sense of purpose and collective professionalism that the scheme has engendered that its members elected to become a trade body in their own right, known as the Tyre Recovery Association (TRA). Apart from operating the Responsible Recycler Scheme, which is now a registered trade mark, on behalf of the Tyre Industry Council, the TRA will have the independent ability to pursue specific issues at both industry and government levels, generate performance data specific to its members businesses, as well as develop stronger international links right across Europe.