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70,000 tonnes of opportunity, and local councils are showing us how to take advantage of it

The answer lies in the results of R&D projects, both completed and underway, being undertaken around Australia.

They are showing us how to view used tyres as a valuable resource and how to evolve processing technologies and business models to leverage it.

Many are being led by local councils, working with designers, manufacturers and construction operators, and funded by Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA).

TSA CEO Lina Goodman said: “It’s no surprise councils were one of the first to see this opportunity and are showing us the way forward.

“In terms of waste collection and recovery, they do the heavy lifting for us. They understand the risks to our environment and health; and community demand for sustainable solutions and a return on investment of rates paid.”

But first, we’re going to feel some short-term pain

We’ve had 18 months to prepare for the ban and, under normal circumstances, tyre collection and recovery operators would have been ready to implement it with minimal disruption.

But these are not normal times.

In the wake of the pandemic, Australians have become more ‘home centric’ and new tyre sales have increased by about 30% over the past year.

There’s also a global shipping crisis, which has left us short of containers. This means retailers and processors are struggling to get used tyres collected.

It’s a perfect storm, increasing short-term risks such as:

  • illegal stockpiling, dumping and mismanagement of used tyres
  • the export of existing tyred-derived products (TDPs) reaching onsite EPA licence thresholds
  • reduction in recovery rate of used tyres
  • cheap, imported crumb undercutting domestic prices.
     

“The reality is that it will seem like we are taking a step backwards, before we can take a massive leap forward,” Goodman said.

“There’s no doubt it will be painful, but we have seen time and time again how Australians’ entrepreneurial spirit and engineering ingenuity can kick in. And the rewards are there for the taking.”

New products and markets right on our doorstep

The list of tyre-derived applications emerging in Australia is extensive, and includes:

  • spray seal
  • blast protective concrete
  • crumb rubber roads
  • permeable pavement
  • safety barriers
  • alternative fuels.
     

There are surprising benefits as well. Recent work commissioned by TSA has found that tyre-derived fuel has a higher calorific value than coal and that greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by around 20–30% for the same energy input.

Councils are showing us the way forward: if you build it, use crumb!

Roads. Pavements. Sports grounds. Equine tracks. Playgrounds. Just some of the tyre-derived applications local councils are already using or exploring.

Pioneers include: Bendigo Council (Vic), Brisbane City Council (Qld), Central Coast Council (NSW), City of Canning (WA), Meander Valley Council (Tas) and Mitcham Council (SA).

Mitcham Council is part of Australia’s largest trial of asphalt produced from recycled tyres, across six Adelaide council areas.

The trial is in collaboration with Adelaide-based Topcoat Asphalt and funded by TSA with the support of Tyrecycle Australia.

It is set to pay dividends for the jobs market, with a new asphalt manufacturing facility worth around $5 million in Lonsdale, and the environment, with roads built for local conditions across metropolitan and country areas.

Procurement and ESG professionals, from public and private sectors, can find out more about practical opportunities to move through and beyond the Tyre Export Ban by talking to Tyre Stewardship Australia.

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