National Market Development Strategy for Used Tyres released

The release of the National Market Development Strategy for Used Tyres creates a strategic framework for the market development of Australian tyre-derived products. It is the most comprehensive data set ever for Australian waste tyre generation.

End-of-life tyres remain one of the nation’s most significant waste management challenges. With more than 56 million end-of-life tyres generated in 2015-16, a 16 per cent increase on 2009-10, the flourishing market shows no signs of slowing down.

In fact, it’s only predicted to grow, with new tyre sales estimated to exceed 63.3 million by 2024-25.

Dealing with this challenge in a sustainable manner recently took an important step forward – with the public release of the National Market Development Strategy for Used Tyres 2017-22 in March.

Commissioned in cooperation with Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA), the five-year strategy was endorsed by all Australian environment ministers last year and provides a collaborative framework to maximise market development opportunities that increase the use of locally-produced recycled tyre-derived products. Increasing recovery and demand for tyres will lead to fewer tyre stockpiles that pose fire and health threats to communities.

The strategy was co-funded by Sustainability Victoria, Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) Queensland, the WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, the NSW Environment Protection Authority and TSA.

A cross-jurisdictional working group comprising the states and territories and TSA helped develop the comprehensive market development approach, which looks at practical ways to overcome barriers to increase consumption of tyre-derived product in Australia. Most importantly, the direction of the strategy was informed by widespread industry consultation.

Consultants who assisted with the compilation of the report include Randell Environmental Consulting, Reincarnate and Sustainable Resource Use.

A KEY MILESTONE

Liam O’Keefe, TSA’s Market Development Manager, says it is an important step forward for the market development of end-of-life tyres.

“To have a strategy that quantifies the challenge and creates a cohesive framework for collaboration across multiple government agencies is a great achievement,” Liam says.

“It’s a way for government, industry and other partners to deliver tangible outcomes to the resource recovery sector and the community. I’m not aware of any national market development strategy of this nature having been prepared before.”

Not only does the strategy create a cohesive strategic framework for national market development, it provides the most comprehensive data set ever for Australian waste tyre generation and stock.

The vision of the strategy is for Australia to have a strong and diverse market for recovery of end-of-life tyres, with profitable outcomes for tyre-derived products that stimulate recovery and help prevent stockpiling and illegal dumping.

Its purpose is to pave the way for a national approach to market development for tyre-derived products, supported by state-based programs and underpinned by collaboration between government and industry. It’s a practice which has been growing each year as TSA helps develop more practical applications from its initial research and development projects.

An Ecoflex engineered product used as pavement sub-base stabilisation.

GOALS

According to the strategy, 2015-16 data suggests domestic recycling doubled to around 44,000 tonnes – a 10 per cent recycling rate. Modelling suggests that if the opportunities in the report are fully realised, domestic recovery of end-of-life tyres could exceed 50 per cent by 2025-26.

Some of the key goals of the strategy are to enable growth in domestic recovery against 2015-16 baseline data, contributing to a future where no end-of-life stockpiling occurs, and recyclers can manufacture high-quality, fit-for-purpose tyre-derived products at scale to meet market demand. It also aims to reduce the likelihood of tyres going to landfill, in the absence of no other viable options of recovery.

“Quantifying the current size of the challenge, expected future growth of the task and identifying strategic pathways to more sustainable outcomes is central to achieving progress,” Liam says.

OBJECTIVES

Over the next five years, the strategy has five defined strategic objectives. The first strategic object is to support the development of the end-of-life tyre recycling sector, including a focus on products rather than wastes and improved price transparency for consumers.

Another objective is to address barriers to growth in key tyre-derived markets in Australia through early stage research for projects with national reach, supporting emerging markets such as crumb rubber explosives and links to sustainable procurement and rating tools.

Developing markets for tyre-derived products in road construction is the third objective, which aims to increase the uptake of sprayed seals in QLD, SA and WA and a national program to address barriers impacting crumb rubber asphalt.

The fourth objective looks at researching long-term markets for tyre-derived products in the rail construction sector through a long-term market entry program with industry and government partnerships and a focus on rail maintenance and new rail construction.

The final objective aims to see new markets in the use of tyre-derived products in civil engineering through the establishment of a national steering committee with a focus on tyre-derived aggregate, including early stage research and lab testing on this material and developing national specifications for key markets.

FOCUS AREAS

The strategy also identifies potential priority markets for increased consumption of locally generated waste tyres and details the collaborative framework needed to realise substantial market development opportunities.

Key focus areas include increasing the uptake of tyre-derived products in road, rail, explosive, polymer and civil engineering applications. Central to the objectives of the national strategy was the need to quantify the potential long-term (10-year) uptake opportunity in these sectors which could account for around 150,000 tonnes per year – around one-third of the annual total of Australia’s waste tyres.

Domestic recycling of end-of-life tyres has historically been limited, according to the report, due to a lack of markets for tyre-derived products and strong international demand for tyre-derived fuel. Whole tyres/casings, baled tyres, shredded tyres, crumb rubber and steel are just a few products derived from recovery and recycling.

OBSTACLES TO OVERCOME

The report identifies market barriers to growth in the end-of-life tyre value chain as the economics of collection costs over the vast distances across Australia, the consolidation of products to ensure volume supply, current processing capacity, low barriers to competition and the limited product standards or specifications set across the market.

The report also notes waste to energy facilities that employ pyrolysis or gasification units are not yet being produced at commercial scale – a key market for tyre-derived product.

“As part of the collaborative market development framework, initiatives have begun to provide better information to government, industry, investors and the community,” Liam says.

Liam says one example of better information is underway in the tyre pyrolysis industry. Work being co-funded by TSA, Sustainability Victoria and the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection will result in an independent analysis of thermal processing technology for end-of-life tyres, with a focus on dedicated pyrolysis and gasification units.

“This work will provide a better understanding of emerging technologies, in one of the key focus areas of the strategy, for the benefit of all Australian states and interested businesses,” he says.

Crumb rubber asphalt that was laid this year in Queensland.

FUTURE PLANS

Liam says the influential report has already left a lasting impact on stakeholders. Initial positive signs of action include last year’s release by VicRoads of its Country Roads – your insights, our actions planning and strategy planning document that includes proposals to use more rubber-crumb products on Victorian roads.

The cross-jurisdictional working group has now transitioned into a National Oversight Group (NOG) which will formalise implementation of the strategy.

TSA will be involved in the NOG and all states and territories are eligible to join the NOG to ensure the strategy results in a nationally collaborative implementation.

Liam says TSA will continue to work with industry and government towards unlocking future potential for increased domestic recycling, adding that this will target the uptake opportunities of 50 per cent of total annual tyre generation identified in the report.

“The completion and release of the strategy is a tremendously proactive approach by TSA and the states to address a growing waste product with a clear eye to domestic solutions that are sustainable, innovative and offer valuable new uses for tyre-derived products,” he says.

“These are products that will create new jobs – turning a challenge into an opportunity.”

Stan Krpan, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainability Victoria, says the agency was immensely proud to have co-led the development of the strategy.

“Tyres are a challenge, but there are tremendous opportunities right across the resource recovery sector to expand what we’re already doing into new areas, so that landfill becomes a destination of last resort,” Stan says.

“While we are putting a lot of effort into research and development to demonstrate the benefits and uses of tyre-derived products, we all have to be prepared to use and specify these products, and generate the environmental, social and economic benefits of a circular economy.”