Tyre Stewardship Australia’s journey to success

Tyre Stewardship Australia’s Dale Gilson explains how the organisation has boosted the uptake of tyre-derived products in the road, rail and civil engineering sector. 

It’s been just over four years since the formation of Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA), an industry-backed, government supported association which promotes the development of viable markets for end-of-life tyres.

In that time, the organisation has accomplished many achievements. Through its Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme, it has helped fund a range of resource recovery projects, from increasing the use of recycled tyre-derived products for use in state roads, to assisting the development of sustainable and safer explosives used in mines and quarries.

“Our goal is to reduce the environmental impact of tyres through increasing the recycling rate of end-of-life tyres and promoting sustainable outcomes,” says Chief Executive Officer Dale Gilson.

Dale took over the role in January. He says his background in the automotive industry has helped him engage with a wide network of organisations. His extensive industry experience includes CEO positions at the Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia, Motorcycling Australia, Speedway Australia and Four Wheel Drive Victoria.

HOW DID THE ORGANISATION COME ABOUT?

TSA was formed in 2014 after the Australian Tyre Industry Council applied to the Australian, Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to establish a national Tyre Stewardship Scheme. The ACCC authorised the move in 2013 and agreed that it would be administered by a new association, known as Tyre Stewardship Australia. In January 2014, the association officially formed.

The scheme is funded through a levy of 25 cents per equivalent passenger units (standard passenger car tyres, known as EPUs) on the importation of new tyres by voluntary member companies of the scheme.

When TSA first commenced, a range of major tyre manufacturers backed its establishment, including Michelin, Goodyear-Dunlop, Pirelli, Yokohama, Toyo and Continental. Those brands were later joined by Bridgestone and Kumho.

A report by Hyder Consulting found that, in 2013-14, there were 51 million EPUs entering the waste stream and only five per cent were recycled domestically into new products. Of the total volume, 31 per cent were exported mainly for use as tyre-derived-fuel. Although such exports can be considered sustainable, higher value outcomes for domestic end use such as local manufacturing and industrial uses are preferred by the TSA. The total volume also showed 16 per cent of waste tyres still went to licenced landfills and two per cent were stockpiled for future recovery. TSA prioritises domestic recycling for higher value applications in its measurement of tyre re-use, with efforts to increase the domestic utilisation of tyres its key priority. Dale notes the domestic recycling rate in the earlier 2010-11 Hyder Report was sitting at 16 per cent, as international demand and low oil prices can affect the take up of tyre-derived fuel.

TSA’s aim is to increase both the Australian use of recycled material and sustainable use rate over five years with a broad target of more than 50 per cent sustainable end use within that initial period.

To aid increased local end use, the Tyre Stewardship Research Fund is investing millions of dollars to fund projects to increase the applications of recycled rubber content.

Since its humble beginnings in 2014, TSA’s significant growth and industry participation has allowed the organisation to allocate funding to fifteen tyre reuse projects across Australia.

TSA HELPS DRIVE OUTCOMES 

One of TSA’s standout projects is a joint venture between Melbourne-based Polymeric Powders Company and Geelong-based manufacturers Austeng.

The project, which kicked off in the 2016-17 financial year, has seen discarded tyres turned into a material to manufacture high-quality commercial pipes. Polymeric Powders mechanically and chemically treats rubber crumb from end-of-life tyres to create an activated rubber powder that can be chemically bonded with polyolefin plastics, creating a composite material for use in flexible pipes. It allows the recycled composite material to be used in a range of applications, including in building and construction sector, mining and irrigation and sewerage.

“They’re looking at competing with traditional plastic piping which is a substantial market,” says TSA Market Development Manager, Liam O’Keefe.

The utilisation of crumb rubber in roads is also a key priority for TSA. Although rubberised asphalt and spray seal have been used in Australia since the 1970s, TSA is aiming to increase the volume of recycled rubber on state roads. An important market development project for road building is a TSA-funded partnership with Sustainability Victoria and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Queensland. The partnership involves looking at reducing market barriers to increase the use of tyre-derived products in the repair and maintenance of Australian roads. This research was delivered via agencies including Queensland Transport and Main Roads, VicRoads, Main Roads WA, Australian Road Research Board, Australian Asphalt Pavement Association and other road agencies.

An initial positive outcome has been that VicRoads has increased the allowable proportion of rubber crumb used in high stress road surface spray seals from 5 to 10 per cent, with up to 18 per cent crumb rubber for other types of sprayed seals.

An ongoing TSA-funded project looks to investigate the barriers to using more crumb rubber in Australian roads. Through its relationship with the Australian Asphalt Pavement Association, Liam says conversations are positive. “We want to encourage more parties to come to us with ideas where we can support them financially to deliver projects.”

PUBLIC AWARNESS

Building public awareness of the end-of-life tyre sustainable management challenge is also a key part of TSA’s task. “The success of the scheme also depends on our ability to create public awareness on both the challenge and the role that consumers can play by supporting only TSA-accredited retailers,” Dale says.

Dale says that public recognition provides the incentive for more tyre importers and other industry players to come on board, which in turn helps to provide the funds to help drive progress. Through its accreditation scheme, the organisation estimates 1,300 tyre dealers nationwide have become TSA accredited.

THE FUTURE OF TYRE-DERIVED PRODUCTS

As part of its focus on increasing local tyre recycling, TSA has co-funded a study into market development opportunities with the Victorian, NSW, Queensland and WA Governments. At the meeting of Australia’s State and Territory Environment Ministers in July, Ministers endorsed the resulting National Market Development Strategy for Used Tyres.

The strategy outlines actions for the next five years to boost the uptake of tyre-derived products in road, rail and civil engineering applications.

Strategy participants, including TSA, are now in the process of setting up a collaborative working group to build a formative action plan which brings together the states and territories to work on opportunities.

Dale says that prior to the establishment of TSA, there was less of an integration between governments, the importers, recyclers and potential end users. In addition, the Federal Government is also reviewing its Product Stewardship Act 2011, with that review expected to conclude in the first half of 2018.

Read the full story on page 32 of Issue 14.