A combination of factors affecting our capacity to deal with all our old tyres is starting to cause concern. Traditional disposal routes like cement kilns have other perhaps more profitable burn options, even if they still have the wherewithal to take tyres while exporting them is also becoming more difficult. This is a picture which is repeating itself across Europe and way beyond.
A number of factors are in play and not just the ability or willingness of cement kilns to take more tyres. Export shipping costs between Western Europe and Asia almost doubled in 2016 while at the same time local availability of waste tyres has increased everywhere. At the same time we are making the progress needed to ensure that rubber asphalt becomes an important mainstream use for tyre-derived granulate. More worrying still are the incessant claims from some quarters that TD granulate used as infill in sports pitches or play surfaces is a potential carcinogen despite an almost total lack of evidence to support the assertion. So insistent are such claims that one is led to suspect that vested interests are at play. A further list of chemicals commonly used in tyre manufacturing has now been flagged up by Germany as being ‘of concern’ so ensuring that this particular debate will run and run. What a pity. The inevitable consequences will be that investment in granulate will shrink and more useful processing capacity lost that will not easily be replaced.
If all this sounds a tad pessimistic so it should, the business of tyre-recycling is sleep-walking into a world of narrowing opportunities and no-one; least of all our new tyre manufacturers seem to care.
Why is it we read so much creative PR stories of how new tyres are being developed with ever better rolling resistance (economy) and using ever more exotic alternatives to natural rubber and other materials that go into tyres but which do virtually nothing to facilitate true recyclability. Perhaps much sooner rather than later this will change.