Are you worried about where your tyres end up after they’re taken away by the breakdown guy or dropped off at your local garage? Probably not, it’s unlikely you’ve actually given a tyre’s post-puncture life much thought before, but hopefully that’s about to change…
There’s a floating mass of plastic three times the size of France in the Pacific Ocean. But what about tyres, are they floating in the ocean too? 1.5 billion tyres are disposed of annually around the world and there is a serious need to clean up what happens to them. The EU has strict legislation around the tyre disposal, but even here 20% of tyres are still neither recycled nor recovered. Then there’s the rest of the world; in India its estimated that 60% of tyres end up at landfill sites or are incinerated, and in Kuwait there’s a tyre graveyard so large it can be seen from space.
So why does this matter?
Incinerating tyres and erosion from wear and tear emits particulates which cause health impacts globally. It is estimated 3-7% of particulates with a 2.5 micrometre diameter (PM2.5) consist of tyre microplastics, contributing to 3 million deaths worldwide in 2012. Tyre landfill sites are a fire hazard, they contain chemicals and heavy metals that leach into the environment causing toxic groundwater and act as a breeding ground for pests. While landfill sites for tyres are illegal in the UK, there is no way to track tyres once they are exported abroad and who knows where they might be now!
Using reprocessed tyres for secondary raw materials has substantial economic and environmental benefits and at BIG ATOM, we’re tackling this waste tyre issue face on. Currently in phase 1, we use rubber crumb and granules as surfaces for roads and surfaces. Phase 2 will soon be implemented for a truly Circular Economy approach, turning waste back into a resource for brand new consumer products.
We must foster an international attitude whereby waste is considered as a resource and adopt a cyclical recycling process. Next time you have a puncture or decide to get your tyres changed, just ask where your tyres are going afterwards and whether they are recycled responsibly. This pressure will start to encourage positive change in this industry.