Recycling Old Tyres Oct02

Each year in the UK we discard over 38 million car and lorry tyres as we change up to 100,000 tyres a day! Rubber is a non-biodegradable material - so what do we do with these amounts of tyres? Around 26 per cent (9.6 million tyres) are illegally disposed of, stockpiled or landfilled - enough tyres to stretch from London to Sydney or fill the Millennium Dome! Many of us have seen evidence of illegal fly tipping as well as the ugly tyre mountains which spoil our beautiful West Suffolk countryside.

In some European countries, used tyres are burnt to provide heat for district heating communities. This method of disposal, whilst effective, causes pollution to the environment contravening EU legislation. Tyre fires can be almost impossible to extinguish and emit atmospheric and water-borne pollutants - one fire lit 11 years ago at a landfill site in Powys, Wales, is still burning! This form of disposal should be stopped immediately. Landfilling the tyres is also not an option due the problems it creates for our future generations. This has been recognised in a new European Union Directive (COM(97)105) which bans the landfilling of whole tyres after July 2003 and shredded tyres after July 2006.

The increasing emphasis on the environment and sustainability means that recycling, rather than disposal, should now be our preferred treatment method for tyres. However, the sheer volume of scrap tyres being produced means that current recycling methods (e.g. retreading or ‘crumbing’ the rubber for sports surfaces) are simply not enough.

Tyre disposal is clearly a growing problem for our Local Authorities in Eastern region, as they are already struggling to handle the large number of abandoned cars, fridges and electrical items that are dumped in our countryside. Therefore, we need to find real solutions to address this issue so that we are not faced with unnecessary additional costs which will ultimately be passed on to the taxpayer.

PYROLYSIS is a unique way to extract the most valuable parts out of the vehicle tyres e.g. Carbon Black, Tensile Steel, Gas and Oil. This can be done without burning, without causing pollution or emission of harmful gases and can even be used to produce green electricity! This innovative recycling process has been around for years, but has never really taken off due to the lack of commercial interest in the derived products. However, a company in Essex, Eastern Region, has taken the initiative to refine this process to produce mixtures of oils and chemicals that have real commercial value. According to their experts, processing 2 tonnes of waste tyres will produce up to 4,500 KW of energy with zero harmful emissions!

I shall be working with this company to find out more about the recycling process in order to help them secure appropriate EU funding which will allow them to convert the growing tyre waste in our region into green energy, and save our Local Authorities and rate payers substantial costs in waste management.