A proposed change to recycling exports will potentially affect the way that tens of millions of old tyres are dealt with in Australia each year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last month that his government was working on a timeline to reduce the export of recycling waste for processing in other countries. This includes the export of end-of-life tyres to countries like China.
However, that means that Australian retailers will have to be more creative when it comes to disposing of old tyres in a proper, ethical way.
“Previously, a lot of our tyres were sent to China and they would do terrible things with them, like burning them for fuel, but they don’t want to do that any more,” said David Basha (above), the sales and marketing director of Kumho Tyre Australia and a 30-year veteran of the trade.
“We have to find a way to deal with 20 million tyres a year ourselves.”
Speaking at the launch of the brand’s Ecsta PA51 high-performance luxury tyre, Basha pointed to the actions of the industry’s own association, known as Tyre Stewardship Australia.
Founded in 2014 by the federal government and funded by a 25c levy on new tyres sold in Australia by member brands, the TSA works with key tyre brands to come up with solutions to recycling old tyres.
Some of the projects in progress at the moment include a mobile rubber crumb plant that can be added to tarmac as a sealant, a permeable pavement surface currently being trialled in a car park in South Australia as well as innovative new rubberised concrete barriers, which are more resilient and offer a cost-effective use for recycled materials.
The elastic properties of tyre-derived rubber can significantly enhance the impact resistance of concrete, according to the TSA. This will have the effect of reducing the force of vehicle impact thereby reducing the likelihood of injury and death, while the barriers themselves will more easily withstand small impacts without damage and the consequent need for replacement or repair.
Crumbed tyre rubber
However, Basha believes that more could be done – including greater participation from Australia’s major tyre players.
Brands including Continental, Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli, Goodyear/Dunlop, Toyo and Yokohama are members of the TSA, along with Volkswagen, which is the only car brand on the list at present.
“These are the only eight guys putting money into it,” said Basha. “I’m no greenie but we need to take it seriously. There are some big players – Hankook, Cooper, Maxxis, for example – that are missing from that list.”
Basha also believes that car brands – themselves responsible for the importation of approximately five million tyres a year – have a role to play.
“If you’re bringing 40,000 cars a year, you’re bringing in 100,000 tyres,” he said. “VW signed up first, and other car brands are looking. Everyone needs to do their part and to do their share.”