Last Word: Use Australian tyre product or create a home-made problem

tyre stewardship
Managing Director of Queensland-based Chiptyre and Australian Tyre Recyclers Association Board member, David Mohr, discusses some of the current issues impacting tyre recycling firms.

The past 12 months had many developments for tyre recyclers and, unfortunately, not all were positive.

Over the past six to nine months, there’s been an influx of material from Portugal, which is heavily subsidised by its government. The importation
 of cheap rubber crumb is making life difficult for domestic recyclers, who can’t be competitive on price.

One of my biggest customers specialises in playground matting, but three larger installation firms are jointly importing tyre crumb from Portugal. How can we domestic processors and producers sell our product in that uneven market?

Then there’s the problem with domestic rogue operators collecting tyres, taking the money to “recycle” them, and then doing little more than stockpiling for someone else to deal with – and any upfront value in them is lost.

In Queensland, much of this is down to the lack of legislation due to the Newman Government’s relaxing of ERAs. Previously, there was a limit of 500 tyres before a licence was needed for storing tyres – currently there is no limit. Although one will be reintroduced in June 2017, that has left us recyclers having to compete with rogue operators for more than two years.

Probably the recent lowlight is where new rules are brought in, there’s a lack of alignment between an initiative from one side of government to another.

Even within the branches there’s a lack of understanding about the bigger picture, of how changing one aspect of regulation can adversely impact recycling aims or outcomes.

This is particularly evident
 in procurement. As the 2018 Commonwealth Games are being held in Gold Coast, I thought my business would be in a prime position to supply rubber crumb into sports venues. We had already supplied it for one of 
the practice venues and were then contacted about supply for the games. The next thing we hear is that it’s going to be imported.

Reasons for optimism

On the other hand, there are some positive signs.

One ATRA member has worked hard to achieve an import duty on rubber crumb, where any tyre-derived product brought into Australia will attract a
 5 per cent import duty. If Australian producers can offer their products at a more sustainable price, it is more likely to be bought and used here.

In addition, incoming federal anti- dumping laws will start to force out the rogue tyre recyclers, which will bring parity to prices offered for collection and recycling services.

Overall, the key boost to tyre recycling would be take-up of the domestically produced recovered product in Australia. Tyre Stewardship Australia is working hard with its market development grants to open avenues to us, but we need the support of road and rail agencies, government procurement managers and businesses to use our product in their projects or manufacturing.

Tyre recycling is not simply a waste management issue, where those in charge of environmental matters can make a difference. Use of recycled materials in these projects is decided by individual engineers and councils, not state-wide committees.

What you need is a proactive engineer and procurement committee – as we’ve seen with some road-building projects in rural areas – to secure a contract for using tyre-derived product. If this happened across the country, more tyres would be recycled – not dumped – and more recovered tyre product would be put to good use, instead of shredded and landfilled.

David Mohr is owner and found of Chip Tyre, which processes in excess of 2000 tonnes of rubber crumb per month from its site in New Chum, Ipswich, QLD.

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