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Tyre recyclers say export dependency is unsustainable

Reliance on the market for end-of-life tyre (ELT) exports to outside the EU is unsustainable, the European recycling industry has warned.

MRW exclusive

The European Tyre Recycling Association (Etra) said that key markets including China, India and Pakistan will import fewer tyres as they become self-sufficient.

Etra said that nearly three million tonnes of ELTs were produced in 2014 in Europe compared with the total reported by the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers’ Association of 1.9 million tonnes from 2013, the latest available.

Although the disparity between the organisations’ figures could partly be due to smaller manufacturers not being included, Etra believes the ‘missing’ tonnes may have been exported for use as tyre-derived fuel (TDF).

Secretary general Peter Taylor told MRW: “If there is a preponderance of export, [it] undermines legitimate processing businesses because it drags down price levels in the marketplace.

“In my view, the TDF subsector is too large because the tyre arisings in those countries we export to for burning are growing quite fast.

“Once those markets become self-sufficient, it will affect everyone at the same time and we’ll be running around like headless chickens.”

Introducing a tax on exports in a staggered way could help curb this reliance, similar to the landfill tax principle, Taylor added.

He said the UK market lacked a second major disposal route and he wanted to see a greater use of rubberised asphalt, as done in other European countries.

“We need drivers that will help us build infrastructure. We’ve got to look for more inventive ways of encouraging new reprocessing businesses to start up. The banks would take one look at a recovery business in our waste stream and say ‘no thanks’.”

The recyclers’ total was calculated by taking data for replacement sales and tyres on new vehicles, applying an average weight for cars and trucks, then discounting by 20% to account for loss through wear.

  • The UK’s Tyre Recovery Association, of which Taylor is also secretary general, celebrated its 10th year on Tyre Recycling Day, 19 June.

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