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Tyre Disposal and Recycling
It is now standard practice for tyre retailers to impose a tyre disposal charge when you change your tyres, which tends typically to be about £1.00 a tyre. You may wonder why you have to pay this charge - after all tyre disposal charges have not always been the norm.
The real answer to this question is that it is a simple case of economics - a case of supply and demand. Going back twenty years the scrap disposal scenario was totally different to the way it is today. It used to be the case that car tyre retreading companies would collect the majority of used tyres as the raw material for their production. They used to pick up the used tyres free of charge (or even pay for the privilege).
However, that was when over 4 million retreaded car tyres were sold in the UK every year. In the meantime the market for British manufactured retreads has been squeezed by cheap new tyres from the Far East to the point where the UK market is no more than a tenth of what it was. This means that retreaders no longer pick up the scrap tyres. This is done by professional tyre disposal companies who need to charge the retailer for this service.
Much of the tyre disposal in the UK is now carried out by members of the Responsible Recyclers Scheme, which is now administered under license by the Tyre Recovery Association. Members of the scheme guarantee that the tyres collected are disposed of in an environmentally friendly method, whether recycled or used as a fuel in cement kilns. As a guarantee, members of the scheme are subject to a stringent audit process conducted regularly by independent environmental audit specialists.
The Responsible Recyclers Scheme also promotes best practice in the tyre recovery industry and helps protect against the continuing scourge of fly-tipping.
In the UK around 40 million tyres are taken off car, vans, trucks and buses every year, a total of 440,000 tonnes. That is a huge amount of scrap to dispose of and it has to be paid for somehow. Although the UK tyre recovery industry currently has enough capacity to cope with scrap tyre arisings, the balance between overcapacity and undercapacity is relatively fine.
Of key importance in the tyre disposal market in the UK is The Landfill Directive, which was adopted by the UK in July 1999. This banned the disposal of whole tyres by landfill from July 2003 and shredded tyres from July 2006. This has changed the entire scenario of how tyres are disposed of and recycled in the UK and Europe. There are a number of ways in which scrap tyres are recycled in the UK although all of these can be defined as either reuse, recycling or recovery.
Retreading is still considered to be one of the most preferable method of tyre recycling as it effectively doubles the life of the new tyre, reducing the numbers of new tyres needed and thereby minimising waste. Retread still make up nearly half of all truck tyres on the road but the number of car tyres that are retreaded is now relatively small.
Other common uses for scrap tyres include sports and recreational surfaces, landfill engineering, carpet underlay/floor coverings, and road building. Roads manufactured using crumb rubber last longer, have better traction and reduce noise.
In the UK scrap tyres are also widely used as a fuel in cement kilns as an alternative to the traditional fuel, coal.
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