Tyres from the Australian environment

Australia exports around 70,000 tonnes of whole baled tyres each year, often burned as fuel in cement kilns or low-grade pyrolysis plants.

With a ban on the export of whole baled tyres expected next year, the tyre recycling sector is increasing its capacity to recycle, reuse, convert and recover more of Australia’s waste tyres.

The convergence of a boom in infrastructure with a heightened focus on waste and recycling creates the perfect opportunity to progress Australia’s circular economy.

In attempts to keep pace with population growth, the Federal Government has committed to a pipeline of over $200 billion in infrastructure works across Australia.

The recycling and remanufacturing sector is subsequently poised to play a significant role in these works.

Central to that is the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) commitment to establish a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

Federal Government Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Trevor Evans says the government wants the ban to start in 2020.

“In tandem with this ban, we’re also building Australia’s domestic capacity to produce high-value recycled materials and commodities,” Mr. Evans says.

While significant investment will be required to maximise the capability of the waste management and recycling sector to remanufacture some commodities, the tyre recycling sector is already geared up for growth.

As one of Australia’s largest tyre recycling companies, Tyrecycle, a division of leading remanufacturer Resource Co, is aiming to lead by example in processing more waste tyres in Australia.

Tyrecycle operates nine secure processing facilities across the country, including Australia’s largest crumbing plant in Somerton, Victoria and has a large network of collection capabilities, with full chain of custody transparency.

Tyrecycle CEO Jim Fairweather, says the flow-on effects of a ban on the export of whole baled tyres and casings from old truck tyres would be a massive win for the environment.

“The tyres we process are all recycled using a series of shredders, screens and granulators to create commodities for use as raw materials in the manufacture of new products, including civil work applications such as roads and infrastructure,” Mr. Fairweather says.

“Unfortunately, however, other sectors of the industry continue to either landfill or bale tyres for export overseas.” he says.

Tyrecycle operate nine secure processing facilities across the country and have a network of collection capabilities.

Australia exports around 70,000 tonnes of whole baled tyres every year, which are then burned as fuel for heat-drying kilns or used in low-grade pyrolysis plants. These processes are associated with high pollution and a lack of compliance with health and worker regulations.

A ban on exports will see tyres remain in Australia where the capability already exists to recycle and repurpose them. Recycled tyres can be used for products including asphalt for road surfacing, tile adhesive, soft fall and sporting surfaces and tyre-derived fuel.

Mr. Fairweather says given markets already exist for those products, the transition would be relatively seamless, especially if government regulation is supported by strong procurement policies.

He says strong policy for the transition will facilitate access to Australia’s $600 billion annual procurement value, a large percentage of which is government procurement.

This position is supported by the Federal Government as it seeks to achieve circular economy outcomes.

Mr. Evans says the COAG agreement to ban waste exports is a game-changer for the recycling and waste industry. He notes growing the markets for recycled products is critical.

“Governments, businesses and communities all have a role in growing these markets by purchasing more things that are made from recycled materials – from using recycled rubber, plastics or glass in road construction, to procuring recycled paper and packaging,” Mr. Evans says.

In 2018, the Victorian Government committed to a “recyclables first” procurement policy to drive demand for local recycled products and its hoped other governments will follow suit in adopting ambitious targets.

In early November, all of Australia’s environment ministers decided on a timetable to implement the COAG agreement to ban waste exports, along with an action plan to implement the 2018 National Waste Policy.

“Through this action plan, we want to see governments in all jurisdictions commit to ambitious sustainable procurement targets, including procurement for major infrastructure projects,” Mr. Evans says.

“Ambitious targets for all governments to increase their procurement of recycled products will encourage investment and innovation, create new jobs in waste processing and remanufacturing and will be critical to ensuring that we grow the size and value of the recycling industry in Australia,” he says.

Mr. Fairweather says it’s an encouraging message for companies like Tyrecycle.

“It will certainly give private operators like us the confidence they need to continue to invest and build remanufacturing facilities and to embrace emerging technologies,” he says.


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