This is creating a massive problem, which is now feeding back to the fleet industry as the costs of disposal raise the prices charged for new tyres by suppliers. Kwik-Fit Fleet has confirmed it levies a charge of 85p per tyre for disposal, and enquiries made by Fleet News show this is the industry standard, although charges can reach £1 a tyre.
A fleet of 500 vehicles, where the average mileage is 20,000 per year and tyres are renewed on average annually, disposes of about 2,000 tyres a year. This equates to a recycling charge of £1,700. Many fleets get much less than 20,000 miles out of a set of tyres, so they may be paying a lot more.
Why do these costs have to be added? After all, tyres used to be thrown on a scrap heap or were sent for re-treading and were not the customer’s problem. Not any more. One of the problems with tyres which have finished their useful life is that they take up a lot of space on refuse tips, are not that easy to recycle and need special treatment.
The law enforcement authorities have the Environment Protection Act behind them, and are prepared to throw the book at anyone found dumping tyres.
Those found guilty face huge fines or even jail. The European ‘Landfill Directive’ was adopted by the UK in July 1999, banning the disposal of whole tyres by landfill from July 2003 and shredded tyres by July 2006.
In October 2002, a dealer in East Anglia who handled an estimated one million waste tyres a year through three unlicensed companies was jailed after failing to dispose of a huge tyre mountain in Suffolk.
Geoff Holmes, from the car commercial department at Michelin Tyre, explained: ‘Today all waste products are a problem with a cost of disposal. Tyres are no exception.
‘Most tyre distributors put a separate line for environmental fees on the invoice.
‘Some fleet operators refuse to accept that charge so it sometimes does not appear, but it is there. ‘Somewhere between 75p and a £1 per tyre is typical which can’t be funded out of the tight margins made by distributors from fleet tyre sales.
‘The industry has to accept we generate waste and take responsibility for the safe, legal and environmentally sound disposal of it. You can landfill with shredded tyres until 2006, but that does not make environmental sense – not when there are other opportunities for using them which do not hurt the environment.’
Companies including Sapphire Energy Recovery have invested millions of pounds in equipment to convert waste tyres into a fuel to replace coal, others in equipment to granulate tyres for sports and safety surfaces.
Some scrap tyres are used as material for carpet underlay, surfacing for playgrounds and under the sea to prevent coastal erosion and in river bank protection.
Holmes said: ‘Fleet operators have a duty of care requirement to know where their tyres go. If you change 2,000 tyres a year, you should legally find out where your distributor is sending the old ones. The law says that if you have generated this much waste, it is up to you to know where it has been sent. This should not be taken lightly.’
Another problem is the re-tread industry, which used to recycle many used carcasses, is not nearly as active as it once was.
Cheap new tyres at the lower end of the market cost almost the same as remoulds.
Helping to drive tyre recycling forward is the Tyre Industry Council (TIC) and its Responsible Recycler Scheme, which apparently manages to track and insist on proper disposal of about four-fifths of all used tyres in the UK.
TIC secretary Peter Taylor, said: ‘Going back 15 years, about six million casings per year were re-treaded, compared to well under one million today.
‘In 2003, the industry recycled in one form or another more than 83% of tyres taken off wheels and that figure is still improving. We are doing far better than the rest of Europe in this respect.
‘The other major factor is the alarming increase in waste disposal costs, which almost doubled from 1998 to 2002 and this trend is increasing.
‘Today, the average cost of responsibly disposing of an ordinary car tyre is at least 70p in the south east.’
United interest in safe disposal
THE tyre industry has formed the Tyre Recovery Association, with present members of the Responsible Recycler Scheme acting as founder members.
Peter Taylor, secretary of the Tyre Industry Council, said the move represented a ‘coming of age’ for the industry.
He said: ‘Collectors and reprocessors alike have come to recognise the common interests which unite them and the essential role they have to play in supporting tyre manufacturers and retailers in meeting their environmental responsibilities.
‘The TIC Responsible Recycler Scheme introduced world-class standards of compliance and accountability to the collection and management of post-consumer tyres.’
The new Tyre Recovery Association is affiliated to the European Tyre Recycling Association, where it fulfills the role of a constituent national body.
On its website, the Retread Manufacturers Association argues the case for using old casings, saying: ‘Retreading is highly environmentally-friendly and should be considered the best practical environmental option for recycling. It contributes towards reducing the amount of tyres being used.’
A cleaner option than coal
MANY old tyres end up as fuel in cement kilns, after being processed in special burners that ‘scrub’ out pollutants.
One of the main players in this new industry is Michelin, the parent company of ATS Euromaster, which at the end of 2000 set up a joint venture with Lafarge Cement, under the name of Sapphire Energy Recovery.
This joint venture was the first of its kind between a UK cement maker and tyre manufacturer and helped to produce a template which others may follow in working to reduce the UK used-tyre recycling problem. Rugby Cement has also been trialling a similar process.
By the end of last year, Lafarge had used some 11 million tyres (80,000 tonnes) of the 47 million tyres (446,000 tonnes) scrapped in the UK that year, as fuel in cement kilns.
The tyres are consumed at the majority of the company’s plants to replace some of the coal traditionally used.
Because of the advanced technology involved, this is actually a lot cleaner than using fossil fuel. It reduces emissions of greenhouse gases from coal by up to 30%. Other waste tyres from ATS Euromaster, unsuitable for the cement process, are sent for granulation.
A spokesman said: ‘The resultant granulate is re-used in sports and safety surfaces, ensuring that fleet users can be assured that their legal duty of care relating to waste tyres is fully met.’