Compliance, cost, sustainability, community expectations, on-site realities and productivity. Always productivity. Procurement managers, ESG managers and tyre management teams have a lot to consider when making decisions about tyre purchase and disposal; and it’s not going to get any easier unless we change the way we do things.
The Government’s national waste reduction policy and action plan means that 80 per cent of all waste streams are expected to be recycled by 2030, and mines are being called on to identify solutions now.
One of the most-challenging waste streams is off-the-road (OTR) tyres that have reached their end of life. Just getting a 5-tonne tyre off a mine site in remote Australia shows what these challenges look like: the tyranny of distance; safety; lack of recycling operators who can collect and process those tyres, and the social and environmental harm of continuing to landfill – likely to be felt for generations.
For the past few years, Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) has been on the hunt to better understand the barriers and opportunities at every level. Talking to key industry stakeholders, such as mining operators, Minerals Councils Australia, government (particularly local), public interest groups like the Country Women’s Association and waste recyclers, big and small.
The far-ranging consultation shows that bringing all the players around the same table is the only way forward. When everyone in the value chain is given the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise, some of these challenges can be flipped into viable solutions for everyone.
“It is only when you look at the entire value chain, that the solutions reveal themselves, and a balance can be struck,” TSA CEO, Lina Goodman says. “A balance between sustainable long-term solutions and the immediate need to deal with the used tyres being generated. Between responsibilities to shareholders and broader duty of care to the local communities in which mines operate.”
The key is to view used tyres as a new resource, that can and must be recovered
Used tyres have the potential to become a valuable and valued resource. TSA has already funded $7 million into development of new products using components recovered from old tyres such as crumb, shred, granules and steel.
As a result, there is now a $16 million p.a. (and still growing) market for crumb products and, across Australia, there are 50 major R&D projects, at various stages of completion, to reduce barriers to rubber waste recovery and develop processing technologies in advanced manufacturing, civil infrastructure, explosives, rail and road sectors. These projects are turning old tyres into new products such as:
- spray seal
- blast protective concrete
- crumb rubber roads
- permeable pavement
- safety barriers
- liquid fuel
The big opportunity is on a local level, for mines and the communities in which they operate
A high volume of OTR tyres reach end of life in regional, rural and remote areas. With this volume of used tyres already on their doorstep, communities and businesses can work with their local mining operators to apply for TSA funding to innovate and find solutions for end-of-life tyres, such as:
- evolving existing waste management processes into sustainable, revenue-generating enterprises that will meet community expectations
- finding new domestic markets for rubber waste to offset the loss of revenue from the closure of international markets.
One of those domestic markets is the mining sector itself, which can use products created from the tyres they have to throw out.
If this can be done on a local level, there are huge benefits to be gained ranging from stimulus for local economies to cost and carbon savings.
“This is not idealistic thinking,” Goodman explains.
“TSA provides funds to enable industry to do what they do best: innovate and find sustainable solutions for end-of-life tyres.
“We know that for every $1 million we invest, industry invests $4 million. Already we have moved the dial from 50 per cent recovery to 90 per cent of end-of-life tyres going to productive outcomes in the passenger, bus and truck sector.
“As the biggest consumer of OTR tyres in Australia, the mining industry is the catalyst for change.
“Mining produces a critical mass of used OTR tyres where we need them in regional, rural and remote areas, to attract and motivate collectors, recyclers and investors.”
In January 2022, tyre importers start contributing to the Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme which helps us accelerate funding for solutions. Bearcat, Bridgestone Mining Solutions, Goodyear, Kal Tire, Michelin and Yokohama are leading the way. They listened to community sentiment and acknowledged that we need to increase OTR tyre resource recovery and create real-world outcomes for this valuable resource.
As of January 2022, they will start to pay a levy of between $7.50 and $50 on each tyre sold into the Australian market, which will be reinvested by TSA to help improve end-of-life OTR resource recovery in Australia, through:
- investment, via funding and grants, to pursuing the same technologies for end-of-life OTR tyres as it is already doing for on-the-road tyres
- increased support for early adopters
- creation of new value chains and markets
- return on investment propositions to attract entrepreneurs
The way forward has already begun, and here’s what ESG managers, procurement managers and tyre management teams can do about it:
- use your end-of-life tyres for TSA-funded research at your sites
- join the Tyre Stewardship Scheme to lead the development of solutions with all the players in the supply chain
- join with your local government, business and community to apply for funding
- become accredited with TSA for regulatory and market confidence
- buy tyres from importers that are accredited with TSA: Bearcat, Bridgestone Mining Solutions, Goodyear, Kal Tire, Michelin and Yokohama … the more you buy the more we can help you find solutions