Everywhere, the options of what to do with our waste tyres are diminishing as annual volumes (known as arisings) increase. Right now, freight rates ex Europe are rising and favoured destinations for our waste rubber such as Indian sub-continent and East Asia have only a limited appetite for more. Sadly, the export of tyre waste, often at very low cost has itself undermined preferred market solutions such as granulation and incineration by cement kilns. The un-nerving truth is that adequate new uses for tyre-derived and recyclate are just not coming along as quickly as we would like.
As the likelihood of a capacity crunch edges closer the way we handle our waste will come under increasing scrutiny as current market models fail to deal with the problem. In a number of European states quite ridged schemes exist with the express aim of taking care, or even ownership of the problem and they are funded by consumers or manufacturers to helping.
Do just that, but how effective are they?
Typically, manufacturers or consumers pay a ‘recycling’ fee but what actually happens to the money? In some EU member states, especially the smaller ones, this is often no more than a logistics charge that actually does no more than cover the cost of moving on their waste tyres to somewhere else. Neither are ideal, nor sustainable but many of our industry leaders appear quite content with the situation.
Looking beyond all of this the bigger question perhaps is what happens when disposal (sorry, recycling) routes tighten as they inevitably will. The answer of course is further market distortion.
We, in Europe have long been subject to Producer Responsibility in its various forms which have been interpreted and imposed in various forms, not all of which pass the transparency test. Some are short of being market friendly which is one reason why tyre recycling as an industry in its own right has shown such small progress on our continent.
The obvious danger now is that as the market tightens more surreptitious ways will be found to facilitate disposal possibly through a misuse of the mandatory recycling charges in countries favouring these. Such behaviour is not difficult and may already be happening; at least one European country so thought to exporting tyre-derived granulate well below market rates, there may well be more. I wager this subject will soon assume an inter-governmental dimension.