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Feature: Testing times

This July, new EU legislation banning whole and shredded tyres from disposal in landfill sites will come into effect, a move which has led to a greater urgency for the UK to explore new ways to recycle used tyres.

Every day in Britain, more than 100,000 worn tyres are taken off cars, vans and trucks, equating to around 46 million tyres (440,000 tonnes) every year. Although it is estimated that around 85% of these used tyres are already recovered, those remaining have traditionally been disposed of in landfill sites.

To tackle the issues raised by the new legislation, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) launched its tyres programme in April 2005 to develop and extend the UK’s markets for used tyres and increase their inherent value by stimulating market demand for higher value products.

Currently, there are a number of uses and disposal routes for used tyres, including shredded/granulated rubber, retreaded tyres, reuse as part-worn tyres, in landfill engineering, as an export material and use as a fuel. But while all these methods are valid, it is crucial that further markets are developed which will place recycled tyre rubber on the agenda as a valued commodity.

WRAP has recently announced a series of projects to investigate new products made from used tyre rubber. Three projects will look at products for the construction industry, including roof tiles, concrete blocks and timber replacement panels.

Another two projects will focus retreading truck and earthmover tyres using recycled tyre crumb.

As well as exploring new markets, WRAP is keen to see existing ones boosted and later this year will be campaigning to promote the retreading of used tyres. Working with the Retread Manufacturers Association (RMA), they will target passenger and light van tyres within local authorities, environmental organisations and commercial businesses, seeking to overcome a number of popular myths about retreading and promote the use of retreaded tyres.

Retreads are highly sustainable products and one of the best environmental options for tyre recycling. Retreading actively contributes towards reducing the amount of tyres being used, saving valuable natural resources. It takes 85 litres of oil to make a new truck tyre but only around 25 litres to produce a retread. This saving is enough to produce more than two new retreaded tyres for commercial vehicles, basically equating to three retreaded tyres for the natural resource cost of one virgin tyre.

Another main focus for WRAP this year will be a trial of rubberised asphalt in UK road construction. Used tyres can be granulated to produce crumb rubber for utilis-ation road surface or binder courses either as an
aggregate replacement (dry process) or a bitumen
additive (wet process). Proven advantages of using the wet process in surface courses include reduced noise, surface spray and rutting, along with improved reflective crack resistance.

WRAP has already identified a number of local authorities that are interested in undertaking trials during their road construction projects throughout 2006.

To give an overview of the current tyres market, WRAP has commissioned 10 UK case studies which will give practical examples of uses for used tyres, as well as an additional 30 worldwide case studies giving
examples of best practice. All of these are planned to be published this spring.
WRAP has also commissioned two publicly available specifications which

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