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.

Read moreStrategic foresight: Tyre Stewardship Australia

Endeavour Awards nominates TSA and Flexiroc initiative

Protectiflex, an innovative spray-on concrete made from used tyres that can protect buildings against blast, ballistics, impact and fire, has been short-listed for Australia’s most prestigious manufacturing awards.

The Endeavour Awards 2020, now in its 17th year, sees a high calibre of entrants representing Australia in an international capacity with innovative ideas, new technologies and the best in supply chain strategies.

In both good and challenging times, Australian manufacturing always has something to offer in terms of excellence and innovation.

Despite the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, this year’s finalists showcase what Australia has to offer the world in manufacturing.

This year, Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) and Flexiroc Australia are finalists for the Environmental Solution of the Year Award, which recognises companies based on how their development, technology or initiative has made a positive impact on environmental sustainability in manufacturing.

Sprayed Protectiflex is a blast and ballistic mitigating cementitious building product comprised of Tyre Derived Product aggregate. It is manufactured by a conventional concrete batching plant and applied as a sprayed concrete-like material.

According to Flexiroc Managing Director Gary Bullock, Protectiflex is a one-stop solution that can be sprayed on buildings and structures to strengthen and protect them – and the people within them – from explosions, weapons and ballistics attacks, forced entry and fire.

“When subjected to extreme blasts, ballistics and impact, conventional concrete masonry materials can create deadly shrapnel,” he said.

“We saw a need to create an innovative, eco-friendly and cost-effective concrete-like material to meet security and safety design.”

Roughly 56 million tyres go to waste every year in Australia, with only 40 million repurposed, TSA Chief Executive Lina Goodman said.

“It is the role of TSA to work with organisations like Flexiroc and products like Protectiflex to see more rubber crumb being used in alternate markets,” she said.

“To be nominated as a finalist is such an honour and the innovation behind this product is incredible. Imagine using used tyres within walls of buildings to protect the structure and help save lives.”

The National Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme, implemented by TSA, works to reduce the environmental, health and safety impacts of the 56 million tyres that reach the end of their life in Australia every year.

The voluntary scheme consists of representatives from across the tyre supply chain including retailers, manufacturers, auto-brands, recyclers and collectors.

TSA has committed $5 million to a wide range of Australian projects using waste tyres including ProtectiFlex, roads, horse racing tracks, car parks, sporting grounds and playgrounds.

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The missing link in tyre recovery: Tyre Stewardship Australia

Tyre Stewardship Australia has released the most comprehensive analysis of the Australian end-of-life tyre market that provides a rigorous data set, insight into the impact of the ban and options to support a transitioning market.

Following the recent Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in March, the export ban, which will commence on 1 December 2021, applies to all whole waste tyres, including baled tyres.

According to the COAG Waste Export Bans response strategy, bus, truck and aviation tyres which are legitimately exported for re-treading can continue to be exported and are not subject to the ban.

The COAG strategy points out that this is on the basis that re-treading represents a re-use. This is a higher order ‘waste hierarchy’ outcome through the resource efficiency outcomes associated with extending a tyre’s primary use, rather than reaching end-of-life and being processed into a secondary material such as a crumb or shred.

Additionally, crumb rubber, buffings, granules and tyre shred less than 80 millimetres will still be exportable as such materials are considered a ‘value-added product’ and not a waste and are therefore not subject to the ban.

As a result, the volume of waste tyres that are currently exported which are expected to be subject to the ban once it is enacted will equate to 61,282 tonnes of whole used tyres, including baled tyres, with around a third being generated in NSW and Victoria.

While the waste industry has long called for national standards and specifications for tyre-derived product in infrastructure, the COAG report’s call to action suggests the feds may finally heed this call.

Moreover, it points to “tyre research and innovation” through further support for commercialisation of new technologies, including crumb rubber in permeable pavements.

This is a product that Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) has supported from early stage research to its current stage of commercialisation. Likewise, improved tracking of tyre fates and looking at recovering off-the-road (OTR) tyres is another important next step.

These plans for targeted action are consistent with the work of TSA, which has been supporting progress in these areas since it initiated market development activities five years ago.

Now, TSA has released the most authoritative and up to date data set on end-of-life tyre arisings in Australia to date.

The report, Used tyres supply chain and fate analysis, is the most comprehensive and biggest piece of research conducted into the end-of-life tyre market since the 2017 National Market Development Strategy for Used Tyres.

It combines material flow analysis data with TSA participant reports to provide a complete picture on the fate of all tyres: passenger, truck and off-the-road.

One of the key gaps identified in the last study was that around 60 to 65 per cent of all waste tyres generated were disposed to landfill or other fates like dumping or illegal stockpiling, with little verifiable data to specifically quantify each fate.

This report addresses that, and according to TSA CEO Lina Goodman, supports TSA’s role as an information hub, thought leader and provider of rigorous, independent data for the resource recovery sector.

SMASHING THE TARGET

Lina says it’s positive to see recovery rates in passenger and truck tyres at 89 per cent, which exceeds the 2018 National Waste Policy target set at 80 per cent.

Unfortunately, a recovery rate closer to 10 per cent for OTR tyres (large mining and agricultural tyres) brings down the overall recovery rate for the sector.

“Of the 460,000 tonnes used tyre arisings that reach end-of-life each year, we are seeing that 69 per cent is being recovered in passenger, truck and OTR, whether its reuse, process of tyre-derived product or used whole in thermal processing,” Lina explains.

For example, she says that when looking at the often quoted 56 million equivalent passenger units (EPUs) tyre generation figure, which is now 57 million, 40 million of these EPUs were recovered.

Lina adds that market development is a strength in Australia, and an area TSA has worked tirelessly to develop. However, finding further end markets for waste tyre consumption is critical, particularly with the impending ban.

To that end, she says on-shore energy recovery is an area of untapped potential, with cement kilns in Australia a possible outlet.

“When I travelled overseas late last year to visit a number of sister schemes in Europe, one thing I noticed was that many schemes do an excellent job at collecting and processing waste tyres domestically, and part of that is to do with consistent onshore consumption via tyre derived fuels (TDF) in cement kilns,” Lina says.

As a proportion, Australia sends a similar amount of tyres to TDF end markets. However, Australian tyres are consumed offshore in Asia – not in the domestic markets as is the case in Europe and the US.

“With the ban in place, we need to focus on energy recovery as an outlet in Australia to insulate against fluctuations in foreign trade and commodity prices – such as those we are experiencing in the global trade now.”

Lina asserts that the waste ban, coupled with the disruption of global markets, will no doubt affect the cost of collection and this is an area that TSA is watching closely.

It comes as demand in India for foreign tyres constrains, with its National Green Tribunal directing the Central Pollution Control to regulate the import of waste tyres. Not to mention the impact of COVID19.

“With current upheavals in the global markets, we will see an increased risk of stockpiling as local processing capacity is limited in terms of national distribution, foreign outlets are constrained and sites reach storage limits,” Lina says.

She says that based on this, TSA will identify and engage with stakeholders to provide both a short and long-term plan to mitigate stockpiling before issues arise. Importantly, TSA will be keeping an eye on coordinated efforts by rogue operators.

“Our relationship with the consumer app Snap, Send, Solve is integral now more than ever. We’ll be asking consumers to keep an eye out and report cases of dumping. It means TSA gets live data on dumping throughout Australia and can jump on these issues right away,” she says.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

To that end, the key recommendations of the report are to increase the proportion of levied tyre sales.

With the TSA levy being paid on around 34 per cent (140,000 tonnes) of all imported passenger and truck tyres (26 per cent when including OTR) – there is significant opportunity to improve coverage of the Tyre Stewardship Scheme considering participants handled around 50 per cent of used tyre arisings (85 per cent of passenger tyres) in 2018-19.

Secondly, investigating export end markets and foreign policy plans to ensure offshore markets for shredded tyres are stable is another report recommendation.

Particularly as there will likely be a move from baling to shredding as the ban looms closer, creating an ever greater need to find foreign end market outlets for such materials.

Thirdly, in line with the research completed on OTR tyres, more work is required to stimulate OTR markets to bring the 10 per cent recovery rate in this sector more in line with that of passenger and truck tyres which is close to 90 per cent.

Finally, continuing to analyse the costs of tyre recovery will be crucial to enable TSA and other stakeholders to monitor market conditions and better understand existing and potential market risks.

“We need government intervention to help the Tyre Stewardship Scheme.

It can only go so far with the current voluntary model. Government needs to intervene so that all tyre importers play their part in contributing to better end of life tyre outcomes – not just the eight companies that currently voluntarily contribute the levy,” Lina says.

“Our market development is excellent, and it needs to remain the focus. We need to see more tyre-derived product being utilised in a wider range of applications. There is growth happening now and we believe it will escalate with the announcement of the ban – and ideally a greater financial contribution from the current ‘free riders’ should government intervene and make scheme participation compulsory for tyre importers.”

NEXT STEPS

With this in mind, building a consistent strategy around local consumption of tyre-derived product is going to play an increasing role for the next evolution of tyre resource recovery.

When it comes to the domestic fate, the data shows a number of markets are very much in their infancy.

This comprises civil engineering which makes up only one per cent of the market, or pyrolysis at less than one per cent. Around 32,900 tonnes of used tyres were recycled into crumb, granules and buffings in Australia (17 per cent) with the majority of material derived from truck tyres.

No TDF is used in Australia in cement kilns, industrial boilers or furnaces, with all TDF currently going offshore.

“In Australia, we still don’t consume enough of our own waste and we really need to focus on how we’re going to build those alternate markets to use that.”

“We’ve done some great work in market development, but we need to now work on how we’re going to commercialise it, whether it’s research and prototyping, and if so we need to dial it up in a big way. The market and environment are right, we just need to help drive outcomes.”

Passenger tyres, she says, are another priority area.

“I think the passenger tyre issue is really important because at the moment we are seeing that the major fate for passenger tyres is fuel consumption overseas.”

“Truck tyres are valuable because they’re easier to crumb than passenger tyres. We need to dispel the myth that passenger tyres can’t be used in crumb rubber applications – because they can, they just need to be processed a bit differently.”

Notably, the data reflects huge decline in stockpiling. Stockpiles now make up less than one per cent, or around 5600 tonnes of used tyres, which in the report are defined as more than 40 tonnes of untreated or unprocessed product with onsite storage for more than 12 months.

The report attributes this decrease in stockpiling to stronger EPA regulation and enforcement and increases in the volume of baled passenger tyres exported over the last few years.

However, Lina notes that with the implementation of the ban and constraints in the demand for Australian tyres from foreign markets such as India, more material may accumulate in Australia, creating stockpiling risks for responsible authorities and the community more broadly.

Also, as was noted by a recent announcement by the UK Tyre Recovery Association, with baling being removed from the market, gate fees may rise, incentivising less scrupulous operators to collect without legitimate outlets, thereby encouraging dumping.

Coordinated activity between TSA, processors, industry associations and government are needed to mitigate these risks.  

Lina adds that new participants in the market, including online retailers, will create a controlled ecosystem that helps squeeze rogue operators out of the market.   

“Auto brands are seeing a positive partnership in working with TSA and we hope to see more of that over the next 12 months,” Lina says.

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ARRB details support for Victoria’s Recycled First program

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) is committed to supporting the Victorian Government’s push to boost the amount of recycled materials used in major construction projects.

Recycled First, a recent initiative from the Victorian Government, will prioritise recycled and reused materials that meet existing standards for road and rail projects – with recycled aggregates, glass, plastic, timber, steel, ballast, crushed concrete, crushed brick, crumb rubber, reclaimed asphalt pavement and organics taking precedence over virgin materials.

According to an ARRB statement, the organisation has significant involvement in research and trials of recycled and alternative materials in road construction.

“Changes to tender processes mean projects such as the $16 billion North East Link in Melbourne may include roads made of partly discarded rubber,” the statement reads.

“ARRB’s state-of-the-art research labs in Port Melbourne offer world-class testing facilities for the use and specifications for recycled and alternative road construction materials.”

Examples of ARRB’s work in the recycled materials space include a trial of recycled crushed glass asphalt on local roads with Brimbank City Council in Melbourne’s west.

“ARRB is also involved in an important new trial – alongside Tyre Stewardship Australia and Victoria’s Department of Transport – involving using crumb rubber on East Boundary Road at Bentleigh East,” the statement reads.

According to Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan, the state’s Recycled First program brings a uniform approach to the existing ‘ad hoc’ use of recycled products on major transport infrastructure projects.

“We’re paving a greener future for Victoria’s infrastructure, turning waste into vital materials for our huge transport agenda and getting rubbish out of landfills,” Ms Allan said.

Recycled First will boost the demand for reused materials right across our construction sector – driving innovation in sustainable materials and changing the way we think about waste products.”

The Recycled First initiative is overseen by the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority, and will include strict quality and safety standards.

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TSA and ARRB trial crumb rubber asphalt on busy Melbourne road

Crumb rubber asphalt is being laid on a busy Melbourne road as part of a new trial funded by Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA), the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) and the Victorian Department of Transport.

While already a proven technology on country roads, the project aims to increase opportunities to use crumb rubber asphalt on highly trafficked roads.

The asphalt will be laid on a 1.4 kilometre section of East Boundary Rd in Bentleigh East, with four seperate crumb rubber mixes and two asphalt control sections. The equivalent of 1600 car tyres will be used.

The trial is in line with the Victorian Government’s Recycled First policy, which aims to increase the use of recycled materials in construction projects, TSA CEO Lina Goodman explained.

“Australia generates the equivalent of 56 million used car tyres every year. Around 30 per cent of those end up in landfill or are stockpiled,” she said.

“Finding innovative and sustainable ways of using old tyres is vital, and crumb rubber asphalt roads are the perfect solution to a waste problem.”

According to ARRB CEO Michael Caltabiano, when added to an asphalt mix, crumb tyre rubber not only assists with the reuse of waste, but adds value to the road structure.

“ARRB’s applied research findings show that crumb rubber asphalt lasts longer, performs better and delivers a better economic outcome for the community,” he said.

Lab and field testing will be conducted at regular intervals, with a final report due by mid 2022.

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TSA and Logan City Council trial crumb rubber road

Logan City Council has teamed up with Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) to trial a new eco-friendly road surface.

The surface is a combination of old tyres and reclaimed asphalt, and will be installed on Lagoon Road, Carbrook over the next month.

TSA has committed $150,000 to the trial and additional lab testing, which aims to prove the new surface will be as good as, or better than, standard road sealing.

Logan City Council Road Water Infrastructure Director Daryl Ross said council is always looking at innovative ways to deliver better roads.

“Council wants to build a road network that is suitable for our growing region,” he said.

“This partnership with TSA aims to enhance road quality for users in a cost-effective way.”

According to TSA CEO Lina Goodman, the trial is about creating a recycled road product that saves money, while delivering a safe and reliable product.

“It also has a huge environmental benefit to the community because it is using recycled tyres,” she said.

Crumb rubber is produced by reducing scrap tyres down to their basic materials and removing steel and fibre, along with any other contaminants such as dust, glass or rock. Reclaimed asphalt consists of old, damaged pavement materials milled and crushed into a new mixture.

According to a TSA statement, Australia generated the equivalent of 56 million used car tyres in the last financial year.

“Eighty-nine percent of them were recovered for reuse or processed into tyre derived products. The rest ended up in landfill or were stockpiled,” the statement reads.

“In Queensland, the equivalent of 12.7 million car tyres were generated with a similar recovery rate of 69 per cent. Around 14 per cent of the recovered tyres were locally recycled into crumb rubber and granules.”

The trial will begin in May, with initial results expected in August. Queensland civil infrastructure firm Fulton Hogan will construct the road.

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Off-the-road tyre traction: Tyre Stewardship Australia

A critical first step to accelerating off-the-road tyre resource recovery has been completed, with the release of a new report commissioned by Tyre Stewardship Australia.

While the Australian tyre recycling conversation has traditionally focused on passenger and truck tyres, the disposal and recycling of off-the-road (OTR) tyres is largely uncharted territory.

OTR disposal and recycling is particularly challenging in the mining sector, where their size, construction and remote location makes material processing onerous.

To get an accurate picture of OTR, Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) engaged Randell Environmental Consulting for a research project. Working with Brock Baker Environmental consulting, the firms completed an analysis of the consumption and fate of OTR tyres.

The analysis was borne from the recommendations of a previous report that same year which identified the need to better understand OTR tyre consumption and fate.

This was given the estimated recovery rate in 2018-19 was a mere 11 per cent, compared to 89 per cent recovery within the passenger and truck sector. The remaining 89 per cent of OTR tyres were not recovered, with an assumed 81 per cent disposed onsite at mining, farming or similar sites.

The report covers the agriculture, aviation, construction, manufacturing and trade and mining sectors. In breaking down the findings, the mining sector had the highest OTR generation in 2018-19 at 68,000 (58 per cent), followed by agriculture at 31,400 (27 per cent) and the other sectors. Combining all the sectors collectively, the five-year average for OTR generation is around 119,000.

Importantly, the report is an entry point to facilitate more informed discussions and does not look to provide the answers to improved used mining tyre recovery.

Lina Goodman, TSA CEO, says stakeholder interviews and visits will inform further information-gathering.

“OTR tyres have been left off the discourse for a while. This is largely  because the opportunities to manage them from a resource recovery perspective haven’t been there, or were limited. We’re now starting to see that change,” Lina says.

“While OTR research has traditionally focused on the mining sector, this report tells us there are other parts of OTR that are just as important like agriculture and construction.

“What’s significant is they may be a little bit simpler to manage than the large earthmoving tyres on mining sites.”

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TYRES?

Australia’s used OTR tyres are subject to a range of different fates possible, including retreading for reuse, civil engineering, turned into processed rubber products, pyrolysis, stockpiles, landfill and exported overseas.

The report’s authors consulted with state and territory regulators and the used tyre recycling industry to understand the fate of these tyres.

Around 93 per cent of used OTR tyres within the mining sector, or 63,300 tonnes, went to onsite disposal.

Industry consultation finds that while repair of large mining tyres is a well-established practice, retreading of OTRs is not practised in Australia except in aviation, where retreading is a normal practice.

Civil engineering is not a significant fate either, with an uptake of around 1200 tonnes of used OTR tyres used in the construction of retaining walls or similar.

Notably, illegal stockpiling, excluding onsite disposal of OTRs was not common in 2018-19, with only 2300 tonnes. Likewise landfilling is unlikely (at 4000 tonnes) and pyrolysis and crumb, granules and buffing is rare.

An estimated 14,400 tonnes of used OTR tyres were exported overseas for processing in 2018-19, with 2500 tonnes of this from the aviation sector. The remaining 12,000 tonnes is believed to be from the construction and manufacturing sectors and sectioned into manageable sized pieces for export.

FUTURE AND EXISTING PRACTICES

After consultation with key mining jurisdictions (WA, QLD, NSW and NT), environment protection agencies and the waste industry, the report highlighted the various storage practices which differ from state to state.

Onsite disposal has been the historical practice as there hasn’t been alternatives. The report points out that mining companies should expect the current practice to cease.

A key point is that only a few of Australia’s used tyre processors are currently able to receive large mining OTR tyres.

Moreover, the report estimates the collection cost of large mining tyres can fall anywhere between $300 to $770 per tonne, with indicative processing per tonne a further $300 to $800 per tonne depending on the recovery outcomes.

All jurisdictions consulted allowed onsite tyre disposal but the requirements were nuanced.

For example, WA permits used mining tyres to be disposed onsite in designated areas defined in the mining site environmental licence. Conversely, Queensland had no limits on quantities or location for onsite storage and disposal, but specific projects had their own requirements. Consultation with EPA NSW staff found that mining tyres were allowed by EPA to be stored and disposed onsite with no limits on quantities or location.

QLD, NSW and WA are all reviewing the current practise of allowing onsite disposal and the QLD Government has raised the issue with the Minerals Council of Australia.

Other areas such as converting mining OTRs into crumbed rubber and steel or tyre-derived fuel are technically feasible, but energy intensive.

Recovery by pyrolysis remains an emerging option, with several sites in Australia targeting used mining tyres as a primary feedstock. This includes the Pearl Global facility and Tytec Recycling as examples which are all based in Queensland.

“The good news is there is a lot of interest from organisations to invest in providing solutions for the sector,” Lina says.

As for the critical next steps? An OTR working group is already underway comprising the earthmoving sector, tyre companies and government.

To improve Australian OTR recovery, the report proposes a range of options to consider. This covers continued collaborative discussions via the working group and OTR manufacturers contributing to the scheme with an aim of expediting the solutions.

Additionally, State and Federal Government intervention is also proposed with a regulatory framework to support these activities.

The framework should work in tandem with OTR sector moving towards the cessation of onsite disposal in all jurisdictions. Recyclers could then support that by developing onshore energy markets for tyre-derived fuel recovery.

Lina says all of these factors, in addition to a roadmap coming in 2020 from the working group, will be critical to achieving change.

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