Going the extra-mile on the road to net zero and a circular economy is a must to achieve the outcomes sought by the federal government for tyre recycling in Australia, according to Tyrecycle CEO Jim Fairweather.
With the waste export bans on whole tyres coming into effect on December 1 this year, harnessing the power of collaboration will be key to the success of increased tyre recycling efforts.
Over the years, leading Australian tyre recycling company Tyrecycle has invested heavily to recover more materials from end-of-life tyres (ELT), but admits continued progress will require a genuine commitment right along the supply chain – from consumers and retailers to recyclers.
Tyrecycle Chief Executive Officer Jim Fairweather says it will be critical to lift consumer awareness on “what genuine recycling looks like” and why it costs more to do things sustainably.
“We need to support the efforts of those retailers who are committed to ensuring end-of-life tyres are appropriately recycled and re-purposed into other usable materials,” says Fairweather.
“It’s important that consumers are conscious of where their used tyres end up, ensuring they are not inadvertently supporting irresponsible disposal practices including stockpiling, use of landfill or unregulated pyrolysis plants. The environmental and human health impact of such practices is well documented,” he adds.
“In this context,” Fairweathe says, “we all play a pivotal role in progressing that conversation to raise awareness around the importance of backing sustainable solutions rather than the lowest value disposal into the environment.
“We are definitely encouraged by the commitment of our retail business partners across the sector in playing their part.”
While the governments’ efforts to invest and expand the resource recovery sector has given a much-needed impetus to grow the local tyre recycling industry, building domestic demand for tyre-derived product will be equally important.
Fairweather, who is also the Chair of the Australian Tyre Recyclers Association (ATRA) and a board member of the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR), says we need to see a scaling up of research and development with a view to commercialising new technologies and progressing innovative solutions.
“Again, it’s about genuine partnerships. Industry needs to work with government to identify those opportunities and to accelerate the development of national standards and specifications for locally made tyre-derived products.
“There is plenty of upside in progressing high value tyre reuse applications including rubber crumb as a binder for road construction and permeable pavements, which can assist in managing flood risks.”
Fairweather says that requires bold procurement targets and also consistency in policy across the states to ensure that regulatory barriers to growing the Australian market for the use of tyre-derived products are removed.
“This is especially critical given the continued volatility in the international commodity markets, and the ongoing uncertainty tied to COVID-19.”
“If we are to meet and support the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG’s) waste export bans, we need to invest in building local processing capabilities by re-capitalising the tyre recycling sector through appropriate gate fees and commercial returns.”
As an Australian owned and operated company, Tyrecycle is committed to playing its part through a $40 million capital expansion program, including a new tyre recycling plant coming online in Sydney, a second new plant in Western Australia, and the bolstering of its operations in South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland.
“It’s about being future ready,” says Fairweather. “We want to ensure we are ahead of the curve in meeting growing demand, both domestically and internationally.”