Strategic foresight: Tyre Stewardship Australia

Strategic foresight: Tyre Stewardship Australia

In late June, Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) launched a new Strategic Plan 2020-2023. Mapped against the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, the plan seeks to strengthen TSA’s role in the sustainable management, recycling and productive use of end-of-life tyres.

The plan notes that over the last five years, the average volume of end-of-life tyres generated in Australia was 450,000 tonnes: the equivalent of 56 million passenger tyres.

In 2018-19, 323,000 tonnes were recovered, including 89 per cent of truck and passenger tyres and 11 per cent of OTR tyres – equating to 69 per cent of total mass generated.

While a 69 per cent recovery rate highlights recent sector progress, TSA has its sights set on growth.

As outlined in the strategic plan, TSA is committed to promoting increased local use of Australian end-of-life tyres in productive ways.

Critically, this will involve further investment in market development to drive high volume uses of tyre derived products such as crumb rubber.

TSA has supported the development of crumb rubber from early stage research to its current stage of commercialisation. And to date, has committed over $6 million to support greater consumption of used tyres in Australia.

In August 2019, the City of Mitcham installed permeable paving made with recycled tyres as part of a field trail in sustainable urban drainage design. The paving was developed by the Merlin Site Services in conjunction with the University of Melbourne with TSA funding.

“Since inception, TSA’s research and market development activity has proven to be globally revered,” Lina Goodman, TSA CEO says.

On the back of the Mitcham trial and with funding from TSA, South Australian councils Onkaparinga, Port Adelaide/Enfield, Campbelltown, West Torrens, Mitcham and Salisbury installed crumb rubber roads throughout May and June this year.

“TSA is also working with Brisbane City Council and Logan in south east Queensland to really push consumption in that region too,” Goodman says.

According to Goodman, government support and partnerships have been integral to the development of TSA’s market development program.

She explains that in addition to TSA’s $6 million funding commitments, state authorities such as Sustainability Victoria and Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science have made significant co-contributions.

Support from such agencies, as well as contributions from industry partners, has leveraged an additional $21 million in co-contributions via the Tyre Stewardship Fund to deliver substantial benefit to the local resource recovery sector

Through these partnerships, TSA has worked on a number of individual projects such as using rubber and plastic composites to manufacture flexible pipes.

“But perhaps more importantly than individual projects, is the coordinated program that has focused on increased demand for crumb rubber in the roads space,” Goodman says.

“This sector has seen substantial positive results of increased consumption of thousands of tonnes of crumb rubber per year.”

While the roads sector, particularly government and road authorities, can be perceived as reluctant to change, Goodman has noticed significant change in the five years TSA has been working with government partners in this space.

She adds that recyclers are now reporting the sale of more crumb rubber than ever, on the back of increased sales into roads.

“This doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a coordinated program, facilitated by TSA, but bringing together support from key government transport authorities including DOT Victoria, TMR in Queensland, Main Roads Western Australia and DPTI in South Australia,” Goodman says.

She notes that in Western Australia alone, crumb rubber consumption has doubled in two years.

TSA is now working with Austroads to create national crumb rubber binder specifications. Additionally, DOT Victoria and Main Roads Western Australia have changed procurement policies to specify Australian produced crumb rubber.

“This is substantial as TSA now gets calls from crumb importers saying they can’t sell their product into Australian roads anymore because of the leadership of these organisations,” Goodman says.

She adds that the program is backed up by sound research from organisations such as the Australian Road Research Board and universities like RMIT, as well as an innovative and forward-thinking industry sector.

“We are very grateful for our collaborating government agencies,” Goodman says.

DRIVING FUTURE RECOVERY

The National Market Development Strategy, which was endorsed by all Australian Environment Ministers in 2017, creates a collaborative framework for the implementation of market development activities for end-of-life tyres in Australia between TSA and government.

“TSA has continued to work on this since it was created, and we’re re-invigorating the engagement process around this now to capture and promote the work contributors have collectively made over the last couple of years since it was released,” Goodman says.

Going forward, TSA will continue to work with government in providing detailed analysis and reports on how tyre-derived products can be used across sectors in Australia.

It is TSA’s expectation, Goodman adds, that government will continue to support these initiatives through its procurement, policy and regulatory work.

On July 9, the Federal Government released its long-awaited Product Stewardship Act 2011 review.

The review makes 26 recommendation to improve product stewardship outcomes, including calling out manufactures and importers that are letting consumers and industry down by not participating in a scheme.

“TSA has shown that a voluntary scheme can deliver good environmental outcomes and effectively engage the industry to focus on key areas of responsibility,” Goodman says.

“However, TSA has also shown that a voluntary approach for a product that is in a complicated and fragmented market has limitations.”

According to Goodman, TSA’s experience and lessons learned prove that a regulatory approach is needed to achieve the full potential of the benefits that product stewardship can deliver.

“TSA needs more resources to co-invest in initiatives to assist regulators and responsible authorities,” she says.

“Compulsory contribution to product stewardship from all businesses that import tyres would assist in this area greatly.”

In regard to the forthcoming export ban, Goodman says while TSA supports the ban, it needs to be backed up by support for the local production market.

“The COAG ban on the export of whole used tyres from December 2021 reflects concern on behalf of all governments in Australia that improved environmental outcomes are required for end-of-life tyres in Australia, this cannot be achieved without government support,” Goodman says.

“Organisations that collect, process and produce a valuable product in Australia need to be protected from low-cost rubber crumb entering our market from countries that have the ability to subsidise the export through higher product stewardship and extended producer responsibility program levies.”

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