UK leading the way in Europe’s tyre recycling

August 1, 2007 at 11:17 am

One of the most successful recycling stories of late has come from the recovery and recycling of rubber tyres, both within the UK and across Europe. More than 87% of tyres in Europe are now being recycled and avoid going to landfill. The figures, from the European Tyre and Rubber Manufactures Association reveal that the UK made a 3 percentage point rise in the tyre recovery rate in 2006, which was spurred on by tough new laws laid out by the Landfill Directive. The Landfill Directive is a piece of legislation issued by the European Union to safeguard environmental issues and govern the handling and disposal of waste.

Just shy of the outstanding 100% tyre recovery rate achieved by countries such as France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, the UK’s 93% was still an improvement from the previous year and in terms of actual tonnage being recycled, the UK came out on top with 254,000 tonnes in 2006.

A great deal of the improvement has come from the manufacturers themselves having to take responsibility for the recycling of the old tyres. A four million pound modern tyre recycling plant in South Wales will soon be capable of recycling up to 4 million tonnes of used tyres per year (100 tonnes a day) and then turning the rubber into what is known as ‘crumb’.

The process at the plant involves submerging the old tyres in liquid nitrogen, which then freezes the rubber into shreds at -80oC. When they are brittle enough they are then smashed into tiny crumbs. After this the crumbs have many uses particularly in the manufacture of artificial sports pitches, insulation products, rubber flooring etc.

Chairman of the company in charge of the Welsh plant, Andy Hilton, said “Chipping and processing facilities allow us to make waste tyres from the point of disposal all the way through to them becoming a useful product again” (Tyre Trade News). Besides the ‘crumb’, the plant in South Wales, and others like it, also produce steel and fibre from the process. The resulting steel is very strong and goes into a wide range of products whilst the fibre, currently used in insulation and cattle bedding has potential for the production of energy.

The tyre campaign started in 2006 by DEFRA, the Environment Agency, will hopefully prevent the illegal fly tipping of tyres (which can result in a 2 year imprisonment or unlimited fine) and also provides a help line for people wanting to find out the correct ways, both in terms of the law and the environment, to dispose of their tyres.

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