Tyre Recovery Association Secretary General, Peter Taylor gives his viewpoint on the changing times of recycling end-of-life tyres.
Tyre recycling in the UK has long been a tale of two cultures. Since 2006, the tyre industry here and in the rest of Europe has been required to recover or reuse virtually 100% of its used tyre arisings. But that recognised achievement has not been without its issues.
Firstly, there is still too much poor practice and rogue activity at the margins of our industry where the enforcement record of our regulators has, at best, been ‘patchy’ as too many incidences of illegal dumping and fly-tipping testify. These are blots on the landscape of this country as well as a reflection on some in our industry still. Remember, those dumped tyres have come off someone’s wheels and in someone’s premises in contravention of that legal Duty of Care which applies to all in the recovery chain.
Secondly, bad practices are like viruses. They spread, and they mutate, and they have badly infected some disposal routes, especially the export of some of our waste tyres.
Exporting our old tyres has become all too easy at times and has, in any case, been increasing exponentially when we should be striving for greater domestic resilience. Indeed, with a number of new pyrolysis projects in development just now, that is where we ought to be headed, but many of these export markets are ‘fickle’ with pricing that moves up and down in often unpredictable ways leading to market instability and all too often to illegality. This is not to argue against exports per se, but we will need less of them in years to come if these new pyrolysis and other market opportunities are to thrive here in Britain. Some things are moving in the right direction. We expect the government to announce the end of T8 Exemptions, Defra’s so-called ‘light touch’ approach to the regulation of small-scale operators which, though well-intentioned has been all too frequently abused. This move is expected to be accompanied by strict compliance monitoring of suspect-exempt operators across England and Wales in the transition period which will follow. The result should be the further raising of standards all-round. On the export front, too, there is movement.
The Government of India, which is reported to be taking in almost 300,000t of Europe’s old tyres annually, including a lot of our own, will be introducing a form of statutory producer responsibility later this year. This is a ‘first’ for the Indian sub-continent and will oblige India’s tyre industry to make much greater efforts to collect and recycle their own end-of-life tyre more efficiently than at present so reducing the attraction of buying in Europe’s waste.
There is one other thing that is affecting us all just now, and it is almost too self-evident to mention. Rising operating costs. TRA Member businesses, like every other in the country, face exponential rises in operating costs. Increases in fuel, labour rates and utility charges, to name just a few, have risen exponentially and continue to do so, and they inevitably have to be passed on to our customers and to the consumer. Of course, we will aim to mitigate these as best we can, but they are ultimately unavoidable.
These are some of the woes of the present, but what of the future? Great legislative changes to the way we operate are in the air, and if all of these are implemented, they will change the face of the business of waste management generally and of tyre recycling in particular. Consultations announced earlier this year envisage much stricter permitting rules for waste collectors, brokers and all those who handle waste, including tyres. If implemented, they will require mandatory registration for all those handling even their own waste as well as that of others, and there will, in future, be a requirement for all such businesses to meet new standards of technical competence. More of all this in the fourth and last part of the series on tyre recycling in the UK.
Previous articles on ATF Professional by Peter Taylor: