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Collaboration urgently required on tyre solution says 3R

Collaboration urgently required on tyre solution says 3R Group

New Zealand’s track record with end-of-life tyres is littered with good intentions, dubious science and failed investments according to Adele Rose of 3R Group, leaders of the government-funded Tyrewise project.

“While some businesses are safely recycling tyres, these are the exception rather than the rule,” says Mrs Rose.

“A more common outcome has been abandoned stockpiles of tyres that councils and ratepayers are forced to pay millions to tidy up, like the recent Frankton tyre pile.”

It’s a big issue: approximately 5 million tyres reach the end of their useful life each year in New Zealand but less than 30% are being recycled.

Mrs Rose says this is in stark contrast to other countries such as Canada, where they have been recycling tyres for 25 years and achieving diversion rates of over 90%.

“The Tyrewise project brought together the whole industry to try and change the outcome for end-of-life tyres in New Zealand.

“The final report submitted to the government in 2013 outlined a plan which the tyre industry believed would provide a robust framework to substantially improve our recycling rates.”

Mrs Rose considers there are four critical elements for a sustainable and successful outcome: “We need to see scale and consistency of supply; smart, supportive regulation; demand for end-use products; and industry support.

“All of this is best delivered through a collaborative stewardship approach which is what the Tyrewise working group recommended.”

According to Mrs Rose, scale and consistency of supply is critical in securing the infrastructure investment for a tyre recycling industry capable of processing the annual volume of 5 million tyres.

She also considers that the lack of appropriate regulatory control is mostly strongly felt at regional levels where she says councils are left juggling public dumping, appropriate landfill rules and consent applications for recycling proposals, which may either solve the tyre issue once and for all, or create the next tyre mountain.

“Most councils can only review the viability of such ventures at a surface level, lacking the comprehensive knowledge that could be accessed through nationwide collaboration on this issue.”

New end uses and markets for the materials are also said to be critical factors in successful international tyre recycling programmes which are driven and partly funded by these.

Some examples include rubber asphalt additives which make new road surfaces quieter and longer-lasting; burning as an efficient and cleaner alternative to coal for energy generation; or as an additive in steel manufacturing (in Australia more than two million tyres have been used for this purpose). Again, Mrs Rose considers that regulation, incentives, or specific procurement policies are required to help these end uses and markets develop.

“The final piece of the puzzle is the most obvious - industry support and collaboration,” she says.

“The Tyrewise Working Group has been working together since 2012 to make a New Zealand stewardship programme a reality, and this willingness to act jointly puts us ahead of the game.

“Most of the participants and other key players in the industry are now getting together at the inaugural Tyre Industry Summit in early June to see how we can move forward and improve outcomes for tyres.”

The Summit brings together speakers from successful programmes overseas, scientists at the forefront of end-use processes, central and local government representatives, tyre manufacturers and importers, and recycling industry providers to discuss common goals for tyre stewardship in New Zealand.

“This Summit is critical to moving forward as none of us want to wait for a harmful tyre fire to bring about stewardship for tyres as happened in North America. Imagine what damage a large fire of that nature could do to health and our ‘clean green’ environment.”

ENDS

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