A League of Their Own
When football teams run out onto Moscow’s Luzhniki BSA Olympic Stadium at the start of a match, it is a safe bet that few, if any, players realise that the “grass” under their feet was once black and round and fitted to a car. But despite this unawareness, the tyres we deal with every day have a strong connection with the beautiful game; the Luzhniki stadium was one of the sites at which the UEFA trialled the use of synthetic turf several years ago, and was subsequently granted the honour of hosting the first ever UEFA Cup qualifying round to be held on an artificial surface. The synthetic turf gracing the ground at Luzhniki is FieldTurf – a product produced by FieldTurf Tarkett, a Canadian company that, in addition to supplying numerous UEFA and FIFA approved turf installations, also happens to be Credential Automotive’s largest rubber crumb customer. FieldTurf’s requirements currently account for two-thirds of all Credential’s annual output of recycled tyre product.
“We’re quite proud to be playing our part in sporting excellence around the world,” comments Credential Automotive director Steve Patterson. But while Credential’s supply of tyre derived rubber product helps provide a natural feeling yet durable surface for our most popular sport, tyre recycling is much more than just a game for the County Durham based recycling and waste management specialist. Vast quantities of end of life tyres arrive at Credential’s Newton Aycliffe premises each year – Steve Patterson reports that Credential will process approximately 11 million tyres in 2008 – and the company collects tyres plus other automotive waste from fast fit centres, car dealerships, ELV dismantlers, farmers, councils and other tyre collectors in many regions throughout Great Britain, from Southwest England to Scotland.
Credential’s ability to process so many tyres was in 2007 aided by the installation of the “Tyrannosaurus”, reported to be the world’s largest shredder. This machine of Cretaceous proportions was installed in May 2007 after arriving from Finland, and it is “operating well,” reports Steve Patterson. “The machine completed commissioning in August 2007 and will have processed 2.5 million tyres by then end of January 2008.” With a line capacity of 20 tonnes per hour, the equivalent of 3,000 car tyres, the Tyrannosaurus can make short work of end of life tyres. “The processing capacity is very high and depends on the material produced, but at a 50mm tyre chip the machine could process over 80,000 tonnes per annum on a two-shift basis.” Credential’s hardware is able to effectively process 4×4 and van tyres without encountering any of the problems experienced by operators using smaller machines, and Patterson reports that the company is also able to process or find outlets for tyres containing a range of technologies, including run-flat or uncured tyres. He adds that tyres containing anti-puncture sealants may provide a less than satisfactory result should they arrive in sufficient quantities, but at present very few of these appear in the mix so they pose no problem.
The output from Credential Automotive’s facility, or at least the one-third not taken by FieldTurf, is supplied to numerous rubber manufacturers, whose end products include mats, flooring, insulating products and children’s playgrounds. According to Steve Patterson, Credential is easily able to sell everything it produces. “We currently have outlets for all of our outputs, he says. “Most are contracted and a proportion is placed on spot markets. We balance the risk/reward of contracted supply and spot markets constantly.”
The ETRMA reported last July that the UK was Europe’s leading tyre recycler, with 93 per cent of tyres previously destined for landfill now diverted to various forms of recycling. While Credential, as a past winner of the Motor Traders Association ‘Environmental Award’ and NTDA TAFF environment award nominee, is recognised for its environmentally sound policy and practices, Steve Patterson believes that legislation remains fundamental to our high recycling levels. “In general terms most people within the industry recognise the benefits of recycling a high quality product like tyres, but you need legislation and strong enforcement to push the minority into compliance because they wont do it for the sake of it.” He adds: “While a number of responsible producers take an active interest in what happens to scrap tyres, a number do not, and it is economics that drive the market. If the landfill ban was not enforced then the UK would still send a higher proportion of tyres to landfill, or at least until the landfill tax made it uneconomic.”
A current topic of discussion for UK recyclers dealing in end of life tyres is the Quality Protocol proposed by WRAP and the Environment Agency. Opinion regarding such a protocol is varied, but in Credential’s case it is seen as a beneficial measure. “It is a positive step in that manufacturers of high quality products such as Credential don’t want to see genuine recycling being held back by waste management licensing,” says Patterson. “This move will make it easier to use recycled rubber in new products and processes, and that should open up opportunities and increase recycling.” He adds that, for Credential, it should allow the company’s TyreGenics plant to sell crumb rubber to more potential users who may previously have been put off by the designation of the material as a waste. With this apparent approval, however, comes a caution: “We just need to ensure it is carefully monitored and not abused…if it is manipulated by unscrupulous operators and material ends up where it should not, then the industry image will be tarnished.”