Tyrecycle, growing the market for crumb rubber

crumb rubber

Tyrecycle Chief Executive Officer Jim Fairweather on growing the market for crumb rubber and how to sustain it. 

A  “shakeout” of the Australian crumb rubber industry has driven an increase in demand for quality product.

Jim Fairweather, Tyrecycle Chief Executive Officer, says the market is shifting after an influx of new players levels out.

Tyrecycle, part of integrated resource recovery group ResourceCo, is well placed to take advantage of the growing market, with the most technologically advanced crumb rubber facilities in the nation operating in Erskine Park, New South Wales, and a larger facility in East Rockingham, Western Australia officially opened in May 2024.

Jim Fairweather, Chief Executive Officer, Tyrecycle.
Jim Fairweather, Chief Executive Officer, Tyrecycle.

Frustratingly, for Jim, the market is not growing quickly enough.

He is calling for more investment through government procurement and a collaborative approach to build markets for crumb rubber not just in roads, but in a range of applications, including domestically consumed Tyre Derived Fuel (TDF). Government also must recognise that exports will continue to play a key role in managing Australia’s waste tyres.

“Governments are the biggest procurer of all goods, and they own the road space. It’s important that they show leadership to generate demand for recycled crumb rubber,” Jim says. “They will be rewarded for that with investment by industry. 

“If the markets are there, industry will respond and build capacity.”

Tyrecycle’s $15 million recycling plant in East Rockingham is a telling example. The plant has capacity to process more than 40,000 tonnes of waste tyres per annum, 7000 tonnes of which will be crumb rubber.

Tyrecycle has invested in the WA market on the back of the Recycling Modernisation Fund and the state government driving procurement – Main Roads Western Australia, the transport agency responsible for the state’s network, has committed to using crumb rubber in its roadworks. The Western Australia plant, combined with facilities in New South Wales and Melbourne, gives Tyrecycle national coverage. As the market matures, the company is poised to make further investment in the crumb rubber market in Australia.

Jim says commercial viability is also key to building other markets for crumb rubber and industrial applications for tyre-derived products while the market is over capacity.

Industry, government and Tyre Stewardship Australia must work together to target projects that will drive high levels of consumption and have the commercial scale required to process thousands of tonnes of rubber.

With that is a realisation that export markets will continue to be an important offtake stream for Australia’s tyre derived products.

The total Australian market is just over 450,000 tonnes annually – 330,000 tonnes of which is end of life truck and passenger tyres, 120,000 tonnes is off-the-road (OTR) tyres.

Crumb rubber in road surfacing has proven benefits.

“Tyrecycle alone collects almost 200,000 tonnes. The reality is, Australia’s domestic rubber crumb market is only about 50,000 tonnes per annum, so even if we had all the domestic offtake market, we would still have to export,” Jim says. “We need to get governments buying this and specifying the use of crumb rubber in every road project they’re doing. Simultaneously, we need to develop domestic TDF markets.

“Using TDF and crumb rubber more widely in Australia would reduce the reliance on export markets and make our domestic market more robust.”

The benefits of crumb rubber in roads are well documented. As well as diverting waste from landfill, a road with recycled crumb rubber has proven superior performance when compared to a road without crumb rubber. It reduces reflective cracking; roads are quieter and braking distances are improved.

The carbon benefits have also now been identified in a new report commissioned by Tyrecycle. Jim says customers across ResourceCo’s portfolio are under increasing pressure to decarbonise. It’s important to understand their drivers and help them reach their goals.

“We’ve commissioned independently verified analysis into the very real carbon dioxide equivalent savings of using our crumb rubber and tyre derived fuels. By working with our customers to understand the greenhouse gas emissions savings associated with our products, we’re helping them meet their technical and sustainability needs,” he says.

“Sustainability requirements on businesses are increasing. It’s well documented that there are strong sustainability reporting obligations on the horizon for all businesses. That’s why we’re prioritising quality and performance, alongside understanding the sustainability benefits of our products.” 

For more information, visit: www.tyrecycle.com.au

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