Eight members of Tyre Stewardship Australia are taking their role as tyre manufacturers a step further by working towards a circular economy future.
About one quarter of a tyre stockpile in the Victorian town of Numurkah has been removed – equating to an estimated tonnes of 1200 tyres.
Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) used its powers at the end of last year under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to enter the site, with the assistance of Moira Shire Council and funding from the Victorian Government.
Located in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley Highway, the stockpile on privately-owned land has a stockpile of an estimated 500,000 tyres.
EPA Victoria North East Region Manager Emma Knights said the disposal of the tyres was going well.
“The project has been carefully planned, and the tyres removed so far have come from the sides of the stockpile where the hazards are most critical,” Ms Knights said.
“Aerial pictures taken by an EPA camera drone late last week show piles of waste tyres have been removed from the eastern side, closest to homes along the Goulburn Valley Highway. The southern side, which faces several business premises, is currently being removed,” she said.
The removal began in mid December with up to eight trucks a day leaving the site, five days a week, and the whole project is estimated to take approximately 10 weeks.
“The work is progressing well and we are on schedule, although the completion date will depend on the weather, including any days of total fire ban,” Ms Knights said.
The stockpile has been a concern to the community for some time.
“Tyre fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish and produce considerable amounts of toxic smoke. With an estimated 5000 tonnes of waste tyres at the site, CFA has already warned of serious consequences if a summer grass or bushfire spreads to the stockpile,” she said.
The clean-up was carefully planned to include fire safety, security and wildlife and vermin management. Firefighting equipment is located on site for the duration of the clean-up, and no snakes have been observed so far during tyre removal.
The waste tyres are going to a licensed facility in Melbourne for recycling. Once they have been shredded, waste tyres can be put to use in the construction, manufacturing and automotive industries, in the form of products such as athletics tracks, brake pads, new tyres or road surfacing.
With a new authorisation from the competition regulator, Tyre Stewardship Australia is taking a fresh focus to the application of tyre-derived products, while increasing its networks with local government, fleet managers and car and tyre importers.
Tyre Stewardship Australia’s second Tyre Industry Conversation opened up discussions about diversifying the markets for tyre-derived products and changing the way we view the resource recovery supply chain.
Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) accredited recycler, Lomwest Enterprises of Western Australia, has created a high-performance wall system made from baled used tyres contained within concrete skins.
These walls can be used as retaining walls, sound barriers, sea and blast walls, cyclone shelters and race track impact barriers.
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TSA said in a statement that the modules for the flexible use wall system (called C4M) are manufactured offsite, allowing quick, easy and safe onsite construction. They can also have their outer surfaces architecturally modified to fit in with or enhance their environment.
Each C4M module contains 100 tightly baled used car tyres, sandwiched between precast panels and can be up to 2.4 metres in height. They also meet Australian and New Zealand stability, durability and relevant load standards, including for cyclone shelter construction and as fire rated partition walls.
Lomwest is just one of the many TSA accredited recyclers focused on developing, commercialising and promoting new uses for old tyres. The common feature of such new product development is a focus on creating better solutions for existing needs.
The TSA Market Development Fund is supporting a Curtin University independent assessment of the C4M walls. The objective being to fully quantify the benefits of the innovative wall system in a wide range of applications and therefore to expand the opportunities for beneficial use of end-of-life tyres.
“We are very pleased to be working with Lomwest and Curtin University on this exciting research,” said TSA Market Development Manager, Liam O’Keefe. “Developing the market for end-of-life tyres requires multiple outlets providing for a diverse range of applications. That includes a balance of refined-process powder and crumb using products and high-volume, low-process applications such as the C4M wall system.”
Tyre processing company Pearl Global has begun commissioning its first production plant to recycle tyres into valuable secondary products.
The technology uses an applied heating process called thermal desorption, which converts waste tyres into liquid hydrocarbon, high tensile steel and carbon char, and can be sold separately or processed further.
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Pearl has constructed its first production plant, with two thermal desorption units (TDUs) in Stapylton, Queensland and initial commissioning under way. The second TDU is owned by Pearl’s intellectual property licensor and contracting partner Keshi, and will be purchased by Pearl as soon as practical.
Each TDU can process approximately 5000 tons (4536 tonnes) of shredded rubber at full production, equivalent to 50,000 car tyres. On average, this equates to a weekly output 1.5 million litres of raw fuel.
“This is the first plant of its type in Australia and we expect to be ramping up to full production over the coming months,” Pearl Executive Chairman Gary Foster said.
The materials are being developed into potential commercial products, including a degreaser product.
With assistance from The Centre for Energy at the University of Western Australia, Pearl’s degreaser products have been tested and compared to existing commercial degreasers and have surpassed the standards required for commercial degreasers, with one of them showing the best performance of all the degreaser products, according to the company.
Over 51 million used tyres get discarded in Australia a year, but only five per cent are recycled. Pearl’s technology focuses on extracting the resources from tyres instead of using them for constructing children’s playgrounds or exporting. Pearl (formerly Citation Resources Limited) in February rejoined the ASX following a reconstruction and a $5 million capital raising.
Pearl recently received planning approval from the Gold Coast City Council and has approval from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage. It already holds an environmental licence from the Western Australian Government Department of Environment Regulation.
“This is a turning point for used tyre processing in Australia. We are the first company in Australia to receive licenses for the thermal treatment of rubber, to reclaim and recover valuable products for resale,” Mr Foster said.
“Our technology is a significant advancement on other methods of processing waste tyres because it has low emissions, no hazardous by-products, requires no chemical intervention and is the only process that meets the standard emissions criteria set by the Australian regulators for this type of technology,” he said.
Mr Foster said the technology will help Australia handle a serious global environmental problem.
“We believe there is great potential in Australia to immediately deploy our technology at sites close to where tyres have been stockpiled,” Mr Foster said.
“With governments seeking or mandating solutions for waste, Pearl is well placed to offer a solution that is both environmentally sound and commercially viable.”
Pearl has applied to be an accredited member of Tyre Stewardship Australia.