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Treading carefully

Landfill bans of particular materials may have been shelved by the coalition Government, but tyres are an example of a landfill ban that has worked to great effect: shredded tyres have been banned from landfill since 2006 and whole ones since 2003. To make this a reality, the UK tyre industry had to get together and come up with ways of diverting this material into alternative uses.

The tyre sector is also an example of a good voluntary producer responsibility scheme in action. The industry developed the Responsible Recycle Scheme (RRS) in 1999: it is a voluntary best practice programme for businesses involved in used tyre collection, re-use, recycling and energy recovery. Members sign up to a charter that stipulates they receive regular independent environmental audits, scrap tyres collected are subject to full traceability and site permits are up to date.

The scheme is run by the Tyre Recovery Association (TRA) and currently accounts for 80% of the UK’s waste tyres. But that means 20% of the UK’s tyres are not going through this responsible recycling/recovery channel.

It is the darker side of the industry, where illegal operators collect tyres at less than the market rate and then dispose of them irresponsibly. This takes business away from legitimate operators who have to bear the higher costs of operating responsible operations.

TRA secretary general Peter Taylor OBE says the Environment Agency’s (EA) crime prevention team has had a successful year in targeting such illegal operators. He hopes its strong enforcement message will get through to the sector.

But another part of the solution is for tyre retailers and end-of-life vehicle dismantlers to take more responsibility for ensuring their waste is being treated properly. MRW has heard that waste tyres from some well-known tyre retailers have ended up in illegal operations, showing there is a need to address this.

For Taylor, an answer is in boosting membership of the RRS to 90% of the market. The EA would then be able to focus its resources on a significantly smaller portion of the industry, so operating more effectively. He also wants the industry to get better data on the amount of used tyre arisings, so that any leakage in the system can be better identified and dealt with.

Taylor is also keen to see the sector adhere more to the waste hierarchy. “One reason that is not happening is due to the prices that the tyre recovery chain is able to command - these are not sufficient to act as a driver for developing the waste hierarchy,” he explains. If collectors could get more for what they do and higher gate fees are charged by processors, the proceeds could be used to invest in new end market developments.

Taylor says the recovery chain needs to be better financed, but that needs retailers and dismantlers being prepared to charge the motorist more or pass on more of their ‘take’ to the collector.

He is also keen to see greater use of tyre-derived material in higher value applications, as well as the development of more high-volume applications.

“What the market needs is a stronger mix of end users,” he says. For example, the use of fine granulated waste tyre rubber in road surfacing offers several material advantages over traditional surfacing, such as better grip and flexibility, to make roads less prone to cracking and less temperature-sensitive. “I would also like to see tyre-derived material used more in the construction sector, such as for sound and thermal insulation,” he says.

The feeling is there is a lot of potential to develop new markets - the industry now needs to work on making them a commercial reality.


  • 34% are used in new products
  • 25% are used for energy, typically in cement and lime kilns
  • 6% are used in retreading
  • 10% are used in landfill engineering
  • 25% are reused

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