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.
With the export ban on whole used tyres fast approaching, Tyre Stewardship Australia has launched a Baler Transition Program to support market evolution.
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.
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.
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.”
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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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.
Recycled tyres are being used to produce a spray-on concrete that is blast, ballistic and fire-resistant.
The material, Protectiflex, will be tested 11 February at the University of Wollongong.
During the tests, the sprayed ProtectiFlex walls will be hit with shock loadings similar to a car bomb explosion from a distance of 20 metres.
Flexiroc Managing Director Gary Bullock said the spray-on application can be applied to both new and existing walls and buildings to develop or enhance their blast, ballistic and fire-resistance ratings.
“We are confident these tests will prove the spray-on composite creates blast resistant walls,” he said.
Protectiflex combines recycled crumbed rubber from old tyres with composite fibres in a cementitious mix design.
According to Mr Bullock, the ProtectiFlex blast tests will demonstrate how spray-on retrofit can add strength and stiffness to concrete masonry walls, protecting occupants behind it from the blast loads.
“ProtectiFlex has applications across a range of sectors including defence, government, critical infrastructure, petrochemical and retail,” Mr Bullock said.
“ProtectiFlex is not only a great way to protect human life and critical assets, it’s also lightweight, eco-friendly, cost-effective and incredibly versatile in its form and application.”
Tyre Stewardship Australia CEO Lina Goodman said the product is a fantastic use for old tyres.
“This innovative product made from recycled tyres could potentially save lives,” she said.
Tyre Stewardship Australia has committed $5 million to a wide range of Australian projects using waste tyres including ProtectiFlex, roads, horse racing tracks, car parks, sports grounds and playgrounds.
“Although more than half of Australia’s old tyres are recycled, upcycled or processed to make other products, like ProtectiFlex, the equivalent of 27 million car tyres are wasted every year. These often end up in landfill, stockpiles or are exported overseas,” Ms Goodman said.
Lina Goodman, Tyre Stewardship Australia CEO, speaks with Waste Management Review about its world-first foreign end market verification program that will significantly increase waste tyre supply chain visibility in local and international markets.
At least six South Australian councils have agreed to take part in a trial using crumb rubber derived from end-of-life truck tyres.
With funding from Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA), a special gap graded asphalt modified with crumb rubber will replace regular asphalt on a number of roads.
The trial involves TSA, Topcoat Asphalt and the cities of Mitcham, Port Adelaide Enfield, Campbelltown, West Torrens, Onkaparinga and Salisbury. The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure will provide technical advice.
TSA CEO Lina Goodman said the trial is the largest of its type conducted in Australia.
“These councils are playing a vital role in finding modern and environmentally sound solutions to a problematic waste problem,” Ms Goodman said.
“South Australian councils are leading the way by embracing this landmark opportunity in the development of the circular economy in Australia.”
According to a TSA statement, the equivalent of 29 million passenger tyres are up-cycled, recycled or processed locally for productive uses such as roads, playgrounds, polymers and tyre-derived fuels each year.
“But, over 27 million passenger tyres in Australia are not being recycled. These often end up in landfill, stockpiles or are exported overseas,” the statement reads.
The trial will use the equivalent of roughly 3400 passenger vehicle tyres or more than 20,000 kilograms of crumb rubber. Each of the six sites will use what equates to 566 passenger tyres.
Topcoat Asphalt will mix the crumb rubber into a special high-grade mix, which according to the statement, has a high rubber ratio.
“A similar trial was conducted earlier this year on a small section of road in the City of Mitcham which is so far showing positive results,” the statement reads.
“However, this larger trial will use a higher proportion of crumb rubber.”
Each trial site will consist of two adjacent road sections. One 200 metre section will contain the high- grade mix and the other will be normal asphalt.
The roads will be tested for resistance to rutting, susceptibility to cracking and moisture damage over a minimum of two years.
TopCoat Asphalt Technical Manager Rod McArthur said testing in other countries shows crumb rubber from old tyres works well, or even outperforms, regular asphalt.
“This trial is about proving that the product works just as well here in South Australia, using the tried and tested Californian technology, without having to reinvent the wheel,” Mr McArthur said.
City of Mitcham Principal Engineer Russel King said he believes more councils and other levels of government should be using crumb rubber technology in their roads.
“We have shown through our trial that it improves the performance of roads due to less cracking and it increases the life span,” Mr King said.
Ms Goodman said using crumb rubber is a win-win for the rate payer and the environment.
“It’s time we saw old tyres as a valuable product that can be used to make roads last longer all around Australia,” Ms Goodman said.
“The recent COAG announcement banning the export of old tyres is another reason governments should embrace this technology.”
Waste glass, mixed plastics and whole baled tyres will be banned over the next two years following the final Meeting of Environment Ministers meeting for the year.
The National Meeting of Environment Ministers in Adelaide on Friday reached an agreement to ban the export of particular categories of waste from 1 July 2020 with a phased approach.
Ministers have agreed waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres that have not been processed into a value-add material should be subject to the export ban.
The phase out plans to be completed by the following dates:
- All waste glass by July 2020
- Mixed waste plastics by July 2021
- All whole tyres including baled tyres by December 2021
- Remaining waste products, including mixed paper and cardboard, by no later than 30 June 2022.
In response to the move, the Victorian Government urged the Federal Government to provide capital investment in waste and recycling infrastructure to ensure the fast approaching ban does not result in stockpiling.
The Queensland Government is similarly calling on the Federal Government to increase their investment in the recycling and resource recovery industry.
Commenting on the ban of exporting waste tyres, Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA), urged all governments to advocate for increasing tyre-derived products in Australia.
The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) said MEM’s decisions on the COAG ban on waste exports and the National Waste Policy Action Plan are several good steps forward, but there were some missteps too.
Among the other decisions from the MEM meeting are the adoption of broader waste minimisation targets in the National Waste Action Plan such as 80 per cent resource recovery and halving organic waste by 2030.
Likewise, the meeting committed to a greater commitment to recycled roads as an important solution, with the Commonwealth to play a leading role.
Additionally, it was recognised that brands and packaging supply chain members need to make clear their ‘buy recycled’ commitments. The meeting committed to harmonising container deposit schemes and recognising the need for infrastructure investment for domestic sustainability, decisions all welcomed by ACOR.
ACOR noted it was concerned with a failure to enact an immediate ban on baled tyre exports as there are readily available markets for the material and serious environmental impacts from its continued export for two more years.
It is also concerned with further indecision on funding for time-critical infrastructure especially for mixed paper decontamination and plastics reprocessing capacity, as well as a continued lack of substantive progress on the product stewardship agenda, including batteries.
ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said it’s hard to understand why banning baled tyres has not been prioritised as ample evidence was produced on the environmental impact of exports, the existing domestic capacity for reprocessing, and the legal avenues available.
“If one or two jurisdictions blocked this, they need to state their reasons so they can be addressed, and so the ban date can be revisited and expedited at COAG itself. Otherwise, other jurisdictions should just start now via regulations as there is minimal risk in doing so,” Mr Shmigel said.
“On the other hand, it’s good to see more commitment to recycled roads as a practical, no/low cost solution for domestic sustainability. There is evidence that specifying recycled content in even 12 major projects around the country can double our plastics recycling rate, and we should move forward faster on that front, including at COAG where we look forward to the Prime Minister’s continued leadership on recycling,”
Ministers also agreed to write to the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) to set out their expectations with respect to new packaging targets.
APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly, tasked with supporting the delivery of the National 2025 Packaging Targets, applauded the ministers for agreeing on the National Waste Policy: Action Plan 2019.
“APCO was involved closely during the consultation and evolution of this approach and is proud to be identified as a key delivery partner for a range of actions moving forward. In particular, we look forward to working with Planet Ark to develop and launch the Circular Economy Hub online platform and marketplace,” Ms Donnelly said.
“We acknowledge the support of ministers as we strive to be more ambitious, and in particular work with industry and key stakeholders to develop a revised target for the use of recycled content in all packaging. In practical terms, today’s announcement reinforces the collective efforts of the entire supply chain, including APCO’s Members, to deliver a truly sustainable packaging system for Australia, as we continue the transition to a circular economy.”
Tyre Stewardship Australia hosted a workshop with stakeholders from across the whole supply chain, providing an update on the progress of crumb rubber uptake.
The circular economy is a long-discussed topic as multiple industries recognise the need to shift from the linear economy to one where products are kept in the supply chain for as long as possible.
While the term has been thrown around loosely from time to time, the roads sector is one that has been taking proactive action on material reuse for decades. Turning discussion into action, the Australian Asphalt Pavement Association (AAPA), which represents more than 500 members in the road construction sector, chose to embed this theme into its 18th conference.
Crumb rubber (CR) products are one of the best known and well tested areas that demonstrate the circular economy. CR modified binder has been used in Australia since the mid-70s, although its utilisation has been inconsistent and more common in spray sealing applications.
But in recent times, a more diverse use of CR in pavements has become commonplace through research and development funded by Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA).
To get a sense of CR uptake, TSA sponsored a workshop at the AAPA Conference in Sydney in August.
The workshop was facilitated Joe Grobler from the Australian Road Research Board and included presentations from TSA Senior Strategy Manager Liam O’Keefe, Puma Bitumen’s Erik Denneman, Tyrecycle’s Clinton Habner and Fulton Hogan’s Darryl Byrne.
The presenters included stakeholders from each end of the supply chain of Australian tyre-derived product in the road sector, from bitumen supply to tyre recycling and road construction.
Mr Habner spoke on behalf of the challenges facing recycling industries that remanufacture end-of-life materials and the benefits that ongoing procurement of their product can provide to the sector.
Mr Denneman discussed the fact that increasing demand from CR binders is already impacting Puma Bitumen – one of Australia’s largest bitumen providers for asphalt products. According to Mr Denneman, we’re no longer waiting for the market to shift – it’s already moving. He also provided extensive technical analysis on trends in the industry.
Finally, Mr Byrne from Fulton Hogan spoke of the fact that as a contractor, he’s seen the benefits of CR binders in creating longer lasting pavements. He explained that the days of trials and demonstrations must give way to normalising use. Contractors are ready to provide the product, however, better manufacturing infrastructure that can accommodate CR and more cost competitive feedstock is required.
“We’ve got about 450,000 tonnes of tyre waste here in Australia. We use a small percentage of that, 10,000 tonnes in bitumen surfacing, [and] I think we can grow that quite rapidly over the coming years, with the aspiration within industry in various forms to get it to 35,000 tonnes per annum,” Mr Byrne said.
The panellists noted that an uplift in volume in CR is starting to occur in asphalt use as modern asphalt plants are able to produce wet mixed CR asphalts though vertical tanks with agitation.
Mr Byrne highlighted that an increase in CR consumption will require investment in equipment and new technology due to a limited number of producers on the market.
As the workshop arrived at the interactive component of the presentation, an audience of road owners/government, contractors, designers, binder suppliers, industry organisations and others were able to vote on a range of questions. More than 60 participants were involved in most questions with road owners/government making up around 40 per cent of the audience, followed by contractors and binder suppliers.
A majority of participants voted that performance drove their product selection followed by initial costs, whole-of-life costs, sustainability and policy. More than 80 per cent of participants are currently using CR, while the barriers stopping its increased uptake were attributed to a lack of infrastructure/supply, followed by a lack of specifications/guidelines and cost.
Around 63 per cent of participants believe adequate specifications/guidelines are not in place and around 40 per cent were unaware if their companies test CR for compliance with the specifications. Around 80 per cent of participants agreed sourcing local tyres was important to them.
Broadly speaking, the main barriers to increasing CR were noted to be cost, health and safety and performance.
Mr Byrne said that road agencies are increasingly changing their practices and predicts an increase in CR in other states and territories akin to how it has been used in Victoria.
One of the key discussion points was that CR has been used in Australia for more than 50 years and it was important all stakeholders stopped referring to these projects as “trials”. While VicRoads has been an industry leader in CR, a need to utilise more passenger tyres and shift the policy in government towards supporting local product manufacture was acknowledged.
In terms of modern specifications, the various states and territories each have their own specifications that support CR uptake and most require they be natural, synthetic and free from contaminants.
Mr O’Keefe said that the conversation reiterated that the industry is primed to provide the product to market, but it’s now the role of end users to “take up the challenge” and procure CR product in greater volume.