Guide to tyre recycling UK
Monday, 11 March 2019
The importance of tyres to your daily life can easily be overlooked, even though they’re vital in getting your vehicle from A to B – whether it’s the early morning commute to the train station or a quick dash to the supermarket. You’d be forgiven for not having a second thought for your old tyres when they’re replaced.
Since they were banned from landfill sites, the British public has been left with no choice but to recycle waste tyres. For context, it is also estimated that roughly 1 billion tyres reach the end of their life in one year – not exactly an insignificant amount!
However, what exactly happens to those end-of-life tyres once they’ve left your rims and been set to one side by your local garage or tyre specialist? What are the relevant rules and regulations covering tyre disposal?
Continue reading for everything you need to know about the UK’s tyre recycling industry.
Waste tyre regulations in the UK
Whole tyres were banned from landfill sites around 2002. End-of-life tyres, on the other hand, were forbidden from UK landfills as a result of the 2006 EU Landfill Directive.
Since this initiative came into place, the UK has progressed to the point where nearly 100% of waste tyres are recovered and recycled in some form.
The Government’s stated aim with this legislation is to move the UK towards becoming a ‘zero waste economy’. Essentially this means reducing, reusing and recycling all valuable resources wherever possible. This is necessary as a means of helping to conserve resources, save money for businesses and households, as well as reducing negative environmental impacts.
Duty of care
Legally, both manufacturers and end users are responsible for disposing of waste tyres responsibly. Vehicle manufacturers and tyre dealers must ensure that any waste products are recovered and handled by a registered waste carrier (such as ASM) – even after leaving the business’s premises.
Learn more about ASM Metal Recycling’s Tyre Recycling & Collection Services
For householders and homeowners, the expectation is that “all reasonable measures” should be taken to ensure that controlled waste is disposed of through the correct channels (via the manufacturer, for example, or through registered waste carriers, dealers, brokers and managers). For more detail, read the official Government guidance on waste duty of care.
Waste tyre storage regulations
There are also legal requirements which enforce proper storage of tyres in order to reduce fire risk. This is because tyres are inherently combustible, and because tyre fires, in particular, can cause harm to people and the environment by releasing chemicals and hazardous waste into local ecological systems.
Waste managers are therefore expected to do everything possible to prevent fires from occurring, carrying out detailed fire risk assessments, as well as coordinating with local authorities and regulators to enforce best practices. This is a complicated area of the industry, involving limitations on storage, standards for waste site construction, fire detection plans and much more. For further information, you can read this comprehensive guide to fire risk at waste management sites.
Benefits of recycling tyres
Since the implementation of the EU Landfill Directive, tyre recycling has become a major industry in the UK. This is good news not just for those disposing of their end-of-life tyres, but also for the health of the global environment. What are the positive consequences now that practically all tyres are recycled and reused?
Firstly, recycling tyres limits the amount of new material needed to manufacture new ones. As a result, the world’s natural resources are protected for use in the future.
Secondly, the process helps to reduce pollution caused by tyres dumped in landfills, lakes, streams, woods, towns, on roadsides, etc. Thrown away without care, tyres can contribute to chemical pollution of land, water and air, as well as becoming a breeding ground for disease-carrying vermin. In some cases, tyre piles can also catch fire spontaneously, spewing waste that can take weeks (and lots of money) to clean up.
Recycling tyres also saves a significant amount of energy that would otherwise be used to manufacture new ones. Ultimately, this leads to a reduction in greenhouse gases – recycling four tyres, for instance, saves up to 323 pounds of CO2 which would be used to create fresh replacements.
The tyre recycling process
Being composed of a mix of steel, rubber, textiles, oils and other trace chemicals, tyres are notoriously difficult to recycle. Some tyres contain oil and other contaminants from heavy road use which must also be disposed of.
End-of-life tyres are often granulated to ensure that the various materials within the individual tyre can be retrieved.
In most cases, however, tyre rubber is generally recycled using one of these three methods:
- Rubber can be used in refurbishing, e.g. re-treading an old, used tyre
- Rubber can be incinerated to produce energy for use in manufacturing
- Rubber can be broken down and reconstituted for use in new products
Uses for recycled tyres
The materials from scrapped tyres are invaluable across a multitude of industries. Sorted using the above processes, end-of-life tyres can be funnelled into four end-use categories: re-treading, re-use, energy recovery and recycling.
Re-treading: old tyres with enough structural integrity are often remoulded using recycled rubber treads, extending their life and creating ‘like-new’ tyres at a fraction of the cost. It is estimated that 50% of truck and bus tyres in the UK have been re-treaded.
Re-use: scrap rubber collected from recycled tyres can be utilised in construction materials and civil engineering, deployed as a material in roads as well as sound-proof walls, bridge foundations and more.
Energy recovery: through a process called pyrolysis, end-of-life tyres can generate gas and oil, replacing coal in some instances (such as in cement kilns and paper mills) – all helping to reduce harmful emissions from industrial processes.
Recycling: once steel and any other excess material is removed, rubber from tyres can be shredded and ground into a new material called crumb rubber, used in a surprising variety of products.
What is crumb rubber used for?
Reduced to a fine, granular consistency, crumb rubber can be reconstituted and reformed to suit a number of purposes. Very often, the rubber crumb is utilised in:
- Playground flooring
- Carpet underlay
- Rubberised asphalt for road surfaces
- Speed bumps
- Running tracks and sports pitches
- Mud guards for vehicles
- …and much more!
In the case of rubberised asphalt for roads, trials have proven that this can help to make roads quieter. Rubberised asphalt was used on some of Scotland’s busiest roads – namely between Perth and Dundee – and it was found that not only did the surface offer adequate grip, it was quieter than traditional tarmac.
Experts say that this is because the rubber helps to thicken the bitumen – the agent used to bind the crushed stones together. The result is that the road surface traps and disperses sound waves.
Waste tyre collection
Classified as ‘hazardous waste’, tyres cannot be disposed of via household waste or landfill. As a result, both consumers and businesses need help getting rid of their end-of-life tyres safely and in compliance with the law.
Fortunately, many companies specialise in the disposal of old tyres, and some – including ASM Metal Recycling – will arrange to collect end-of-life tyres directly.
Starting points to investigate may include local tyre dealers, garages, civic waste collection points and Authorised Approved Treatment Facilities (such as our ASM depots). And remember: only legally registered waste carriers are permitted to dispose of tyres, so be sure to check for the license of the company that offers to take them off your hands.
Your local council should point you towards nearby tyre disposal outlets, as well as the defined recycling policies in the region. These are worth checking, as every local authority sets its own rules on how to comply with the law.
At ASM Metal Recycling, we provide our own comprehensive tyre collection and recycling service from our very own facility. We hope you’ve found our insider guide to the waste tyre industry useful – but let us know if we’ve missed something important!
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