Fleet News

Tyres: fleets urged to take responsibility

ENVIRONMENTAL experts are warning that the casual attitude fleet managers and drivers have towards their tyres – only thinking about them when they need replacing - is no longer acceptable.

Fleets have been criticised for their 'irresponsible' attitude to tyre disposal as the Environment Agency stepped up its efforts to ensure tyres are disposed of in environmentally-friendly ways.

Fleet decision-makers have a duty to ensure their service companies are disposing of tyres in the cleanest way possible, even if it may not be the cheapest. Once tyres are replaced, suppliers have to pay a company to remove and dispose of them.

Environmental experts say it is the duty of fleets to insist on a disposal route that has the least impact.

More than 50 million used tyres are generated in the UK every year, including 32 million from car and van drivers, of which about one-third will be from fleet drivers. Because tyres are so durable and tough, the traditional method of disposing of them has been to dump them in landfill sites.

Landfill currently accounts for 100,000 tonnes of used tyres a year, but a European Union Directive will outlaw the disposal of whole tyres in 2003 and the disposal of shredded tyres by 2006.

Furthermore the Environment Agency has warned fleets that they are responsible for ensuring their suppliers dispose of tyres in a safe and environmentally-friendly fashion.

One option offered is being run by a joint venture between Michelin and concrete manufacturer Lafarge.

A new firm, called Sapphire Energy Recovery, uses tyres cut into small squares as fuel in cement kilns. It supplies the tyre chips for cement kilns in Scotland, Derbyshire and Wiltshire and will soon have an operation in Sheffield. In the six years that the technology has been developed, demand has risen to 120,000 tonnes of tyres a year, or 16 million tyres.

Specialist machinery shreds the whole tyre, creating smooth two-inch squares that are 'poured' into the kilns. Because kilns operate at 1,450 degrees centigrade, equivalent to the heat in the centre of a volcano, the tyre is almost totally consumed, with any residues of metal forming part of the concrete mix to make it stronger.

Geoff Holmes, commercial director for Sapphire, said: 'We all have a duty of care in the disposal process to know who collects used tyres and where they are disposed of. There are multiple benefits from this process. There is no need to put the tyre into landfill and you do not need to use so much fossil fuel in the kiln process. Emissions of nitrous oxides are lower and so it helps the environment.

'However, when you think that there are 32 million car and van tyres disposed of each year, there are still more produced than we can use.'

Like all tyre disposal companies, there is a charge for the service, but fleets need to consider the environmental benefits of the process, rather than just the cost, says Holmes.

A spokesman for the National Tyre Distributors' Association said: 'Burying scrap tyres in the ground is the least acceptable disposal route open to the tyre industry. Tyres do not degrade so they will stay around for decades.'

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    Tyre recycling options:

  • Retreading - This is considered to be the most preferable and most effective method of re-using worn tyres. During 1998 18% of scrap tyres in the UK were retreaded. The Used Tyre Working Group is keen to promote the increased use of retreaded tyres and to help dispel the poor image that still affects the retreading industry. The Used Tyre Working Group supports this form of recycling and there is a campaign for the reduction of VAT on car retreads, not so much for the commercial value, as for the signal it would give to the public concerning Government support
  • Crumb rubber - The rubber crumb market in the UK is relatively small at 48,500 tonnes per year. Rubber crumb can be used for a number of surfaces such as children's playgrounds and running track surfaces as well as carpet underlay. It can also be used for road surfaces and a pilot project in the UK for the use of rubberised asphalt on roads is still being monitored
  • Engineering projects - Scrap tyres can be used for various landfill engineering projects, as well as in motorway embankments and various marine applications
  • Energy recovery - In 1998, energy recovery was responsible for 18% of the total recovery total. Used tyres are burnt in special incinerators which produce electricity for use by industry and local communities. Cement kilns are also high potential users of used tyres although currently only a few kilns in the UK have received full authorisation to burn tyres.
    Other kilns, however, are actively considering the use of tyres as fuel. Gasification is a further option with plans in place for a plant with a capacity of 65,000 tyres a year in the West Midlands, although the financing of the project has not been finalised.
    Source: NTDA
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