47  Rubber and tyres

Every day in Britain over 100,000 worn tyres are taken off cars, vans and trucks.  This totals about 40 million tyres (440,000 tonnes) per year - one third of the 121 million (and increasing) in current use.  About 70% of these tyres are diverted from landfill.  About 26% are reused as retreads.  46% are reclaimed for other forms of reuse or recycling; or are incinerated for 'energy recovery', which is a low-grade, undesirable option that cannot be achieved without pollution and contribution to climate change.  The rest (28%) are landfilled or stockpiled, and represent a major waste problem.  

With a higher calorific value than top grade coal, a typical car tyre equates to ten litres of fuel oil, and may present a fire hazard.  Even tyres accumulated in landfill may be ignited.  Once started, such fires may be virtually impossible to extinguish; meanwhile they emit atmospheric and water-borne pollutants.  Unless the tyres are shredded prior to being landfilled, such accumulations are also structurally unstable - tyres tend to rise to the surface, limiting options for future land use.  

Under the EU Landfill Directive whole tyres (except those above 1.4 metres outside diameter - large agricultural and earthmover tyres - and bicycle tyres) have already been banned from landfill.  By mid-2006, all tyres, including shredded tyres, will have to be recovered, when the landfill ban takes full effect. 

Good maintenance reduces waste 
To reduce waste and save money, good advice is to treat your tyres properly for maximum tyre life.  Simple maintenance and correct inflation pressures mean you don't need to replace them prematurely.  A worn tyre is not only dangerous, but uses more fuel.  When the time comes to change your tyres, considering the environmental aspects of their replacements may save money.  Why not consider a retreaded tyre?

Re-treading doubles the life of a tyre, reducing the numbers of new tyres needed and minimising waste.  The UK has a well-established re-tread industry (there can be shortages of those used tyres suitable for re-treading) and many old tyres are exported. 

New uses
As tyres cannot go to landfill, and incineration is undesirable, what else can be done?  Alternative ideas for re-using scrap tyres are increasing, but the number of outlets remains less than that which would meet potential demand.  Small numbers are used as boat fenders, playground equipment and by farmers.

Material recovery from tyres and other rubber products is increasing.  The main technique is to shred and reduce the rubber to crumb, and use this as a moulding material or filler.  Applications include brake linings, carpet underlay, equestrian, sports and safety surfaces, including playgrounds, as well as surfacing for roads (also see entries in section 21 Soil and aggregates), paths, and low grade use as landscape mulch or waste oil absorbent.  Finer grades of crumb are used in rubbers for vehicles.  Small amounts are also being used for stationery and office items - see Remarkable (in sections 320, 340, 390 on products containing recycled materials).

Energy from waste - a last resort  
Apart from climate change and pollution, 'energy recovery', superficially attractive for so abundant a high calorific waste, poses considerable problems.  Burning is only partial and in many ways inefficient.  Sulphur is an essential component for vulcanisation - the process which transforms soft, natural or synthetic latex into a more durable wear-resistant material.  Incineration oxidises this to sulphur dioxide - atmospheric emissions can be reduced by ‘bolt on’ flue gas desulphurisation.  This is not only imperfect but costly, both in terms of additional plant and in reduced net energy output, since the process itself uses considerable electrical power.  It also consumes large quantities of limestone, although producing gypsum (calcium sulphate) as a useful by-product.

Pyrolysis is an alternative to incineration of tyres which is claimed by some to minimise atmospheric emissions.  In theory, it involves destruction by heating in the absence of air within an enclosed chamber - like the related fractional distillation process of petroleum ‘cracking’, it produces fuel gases and oil together with a residue of carbon and steel beading.  But in practice emissions are still produced, contributing to global warming.

Industry overview
The publication "Introduction to Tyre Recycling: 2000" gives facts and figures, lists where tyres come from, different types, quantities, and estimates EU tyre disposal routes.  It gives suggestions as to how the tyre mountain could be disposed of, and many treatments for post-consumer tyres, both whole and granulate. (Also available in French.)  EUR18 (p+p extra) from European Tyre Recycling Association, 7 rue Leroux, 75116, Paris, France, email etra@euronet.be 

Also see

Conversion to energy (190)
Transport issues (460)

Alphabetical list of organisations

A & B Tyres Ltd

Tel 0207 511 5771
Unit 2, East Ham Industrial Estate, 1000 Newham Way, LONDON E6 4JN

Commercial tyre re-treading company.

Apex Rubber Co Ltd

Tel 0207 987 4911
443-451 Westferry Road, Millwall, LONDON E14 3AN

Purchases scrap motor inner tubes.

Biffa Waste Services
Tel 0121 502 5500
Email marketing@biffa.co.uk  Website www.biffa.co.uk  
Wednesbury Waste Management Centre, Potters Lane, WEDNESBURY, West Mids WS10 7NR

Waste management subsidiary of Severn Trent plc, offering nationwide collection and disposal of automotive tyres, which are shredded for use as fuel.

British Plastics Federation (BPF)

Tel 0207 457 5000 Fax 0207 457 5045  
Website www.bpf.co.uk  Email imcilwee@bpf.co.uk
6 Bath Place, Rivington Street, LONDON EC2A 3JE  
Contact Iain McIlwee, Business Services Manager

Trade association of UK plastics industry (80% of turnover).  Membership includes polymer producers, suppliers and processors, additive and machinery suppliers and manufacturers.  Advice and information on, and promotion of the plastics reclamation industry.  Website carries useful information on processes and applications, and an online directory of manufacturers and recyclers of plastics.   The Plastics and Rubber Advisory Service (09061 908070) is at the same address, offering expert advice on plastics and rubber use, material selection, process selection and design - lines open 10 - 1 and 2 - 4.30 on Tue, Thu and Fri, calls £1.50 a minute.  Q & A answer section on website.  (Updated Oct 2004)

Charles Lawrence International Ltd
Tel 01636 610777 / 01636 610680   Fax 01636 610222
Website www.clgplc.co.uk  Email surfaces@clgplc.co.uk   
Head Office: Brunel House, Jessop Way, NEWARK, Notts NG24 2ER

Recycling plant converting scrap commercial-vehicle tyres into rubber granules since 1991.  These have many applications - the company makes its own synthetic sports and playground surfaces in various colours, but also produces granules in a wide range of sizes and grades for marketing commercially, for applications such as car parts, floor coverings, roadbuilding, insulation, mats, mouldings (eg bicycle pedals), filling and coatings.  The plant has continually been redesigned, upgraded and optimised to ensure reliability and minimise downtime.  Most heavy-duty machinery has been developed in-house, and its specialised recycling machinery is now marketed externally for tyre and other recycling applications.  Current capacity is around 17,500 tonnes of tyres a year - about 350,000 individual casings - producing 10,000 tons a year of rubber granules.  By-products stripped from shredded tyres are scrap steel and textile fibres from the tyre beads and reinforcement, which are also recycled.  Old tyres are an intractable scrap product because of their bulk and virtual indestructibility.  Disposal by landfill or by incineration has negative effects on the environment.  (Updated May 2005)

Colway Tyres
Tel 0191 378 0558  Fax 0191 378 1758
Email colway.tyres@virgin.net  Website www.colwaytyres.co.uk

New company collecting worn tyres to produce lifetime guaranteed retreads.  These are cheaper than new, and production is estimated to save 27 million tonnes of crude oil each year.  Casings that cannot be used become carpet underlay.

CTS (Brackley) Ltd

Tel 01280 704626
Top Station Road, BRACKLEY, Northants NN13 5UG

Tyre re-treading company.


England:   Website www.lowcarbon.co.uk/earthships.html  Email forum@lowcarbon.co.uk   Tel 0870 765 9896 or 07903 808 044 (mobile)   Earthship Brighton, Stanmer Park, near University of Sussex, near BRIGHTON, East Sussex
Scotland:   Website www.sci-scotland.org.uk/earthship.html  Email inquiry@sci-scotland.org.uk   Tel 01592 891884   Sustainable Communities Initiatives, Craigencalt Farm, KINGHORN, Fife KY3 9YG
USA:   Earthship Biotecture   Website www.earthship.org  Email biotecture@earthship.org   Tel 505.751.0462  Fax 505.751.1005   PO Box 1041, TAOS, New Mexico, USA 87571  Low cost sustainable buildings, systems and education.  Over 10,000 members. Comprehensive support, including training, publications and funding. UK energy and related weblinks onsite.

Buildings which reduce our impact on the planet and increase our connection to it.  Passive solar buildings with thermal mass, made from natural and recycled materials including earth-rammed tyres and aluminium cans.  They - use the sun's energy and walls' thermal mass for heating and cooling; generate electricity from the sun; harvest water from rain; deal directly with their own waste, eg treating sewage in planter beds; use discarded tyres and other wastes for wall construction; use materials with low carbon; buildable by most people at relatively low cost.  Not a fixed design, it is adaptable for any climate worldwide.  Using renewable energy including wind, water and solar power, it 'offers people opportunity to build homes and make conscious decisions to live lightly on the earth.'  Currently two UK Earthship sites (Brighton and Kinghorn, addresses above, and Low Carbon Network below).  Evolved over 30 years, pioneered by Michael Reynolds and residents of 3 communities in Taos, New Mexico. 

Earthship Brighton, one of Europe's first Earthships and one of Low Carbon Network's (see below) first projects, is on the south coast in Stanmer Park near Brighton, begun April 2003.  Offers a resource for education on links between buildings, climate change, waste management and consumerism.  Being ultra-low carbon, all CO2 emissions during construction and any minor emissions during use will be compensated for by reforestation making the building one of the first 'carbon balanced' developments.  Run by a growing network of environmentally concerned positive thinking builders, they welcome skilled carpenters, electricians, brick layers and volunteers - training courses available, tel 07903 808 044.  Makes a significant contribution to reducing UK's waste tyre mountain (40 million annually) by use in building.  See also Stanmer Organics (400 Social). 
(Updated July 2004)

Fraser Evans & Sons
Tel 01993 700887 Fax 01993 700887
The Tyre Yard, Downs Road, WITNEY, Oxon OX8 5SY

Collection of scrap tyres from tyre shops at a small charge across Southern England (about 300,000 p/a). Some 25% are sold on for remoulding. Operates a pilot pyrolysis plant designed by Bevan Recycling (see section 250) for tyres unsuitable for retreading. Plant recovers gas, oil, carbon and steel. A small fraction require disposal in landfill.

G & S Tyres

Tel 0207 511 2017
Unit 1, Petto Street North, Canning Town, LONDON E16 1DD

Tyres collected in Southern England for re-treading.

Jet Tread Ltd

Tel 01708 861828
801 London Road, West Thurrock, GRAYS, Essex RM16 1LR

Tyres collected in Southern England for retreading.

Low Carbon Network

Tel 0870 765 9896  Website www.lowcarbon.co.uk  Email forum@lowcarbon.co.uk or training@lowcarbon.co.uk   Stanmer Park (near University of Sussex), near BRIGHTON, East Sussex

Not for profit company promoting new approaches to links between buildings, working and living patterns they support, and global warming.  Focuses on low cost buildings with reduced carbon dioxide emissions, easy to build and run.  Aims to: start and support (including research, training, communication) European adoption of low carbon developments as affordable buildings; promote policies and livelihoods addressing climate change; develop good building practice.  Has trained over 100 people, with The Friends Centre and Brighton Permaculture Trust.  Member of Stanmer Organics (see 400 Social). 

LCN's first project, in Stanmer Park, is one of Europe's first Earthships (see above):  solar powered homes and work spaces, built from a massive waste problem – used tyres.  They work with natural systems, using the sun's energy and rain to provide heat, power and water.  They are cheap to run, not requiring greenhouse gas emitting power stations, mains water or waste services.  On-site demonstration of buildings' structure and function at www.lowcarbon.co.uk/demo.html.  Courses, including hands-on building, have covered: health and safety; tools; waterproofing and insulation; principles of thermal mass and passive solar design; sustainable systems and technology; basic planning and site choice; sustainable living, self build, and empowerment; waste reuse/recycling; tyre pounding and manipulation, levelling and wall construction, and infilling and wall rendering; and constructing bottle and tin can walls.  Some volunteers still wanted.  Site lists links and information resources at www.lowcarbon.co.uk/resources.html.  
(Updated July 2004)

McGrath Bros (Waste Control) Ltd
Tel 0208 985 5000  Fax 0208 533 1769
Website www.mcgrathgroup.co.uk  Email info@mcgrathgroup.co.uk  
McGrath House, Hepscott Road, Hackney, LONDON E9 5HH

Tyre recycling: produces rubber fibre for equestrian use. Fibre from 50mm to 1mm granules and all sizes in between can be produced, free from wire and textile, used in making horse ménages.  Secondary use in carpet underlay and safety matting for children's playgrounds.  Also supplier of recycled aggregate: different grades of crushed concrete shown on website.  Demolition and skip and lorry hire.  (Updated Nov 2005)

Plastics and Rubber Advisory Service - see BPF

PR Matters

Tel 01494 764932 Fax 01494 764408
Brambling House, 7 Finch Lane, LITTLE CHALFONT, Bucks HP7 9NE

Public relations consultancy promoting recycling of PVC wellington boots for Dunlop. Promotions include providing 'welly banks' for local authority recycling sites; support for special events and competitions such as welly 'wanging' contests and recycling presentations to schools. Dunlop can also provide bulk collection arrangements for large users of industrial and safety boots.

REG (UK) Ltd

Tel 01895 444714
191 High Street, Yiewsley, WEST DRAYTON, Middlesex

Member of the Tyres Continental Group. Tyres and automotive workshop waste collection on toll basis with recycling where possible. Suitable tyres are passed on for re-treading. Those unsuitable are used at Elm Energy's West Midland waste to energy plant.

Retread Manufacturers Association
Tel 01782 417777  Fax 01782 417766
2nd Floor, Federation House, Station Road, STOKE-ON-TRENT ST4 2TJ
Email retreads@ukonline.co.uk  Website www.retreaders.org.uk 

Association for tyre recycling specialists and manufacturers of commercial vehicle and car retreaded tyres.   Lobbies government on behalf of its members on matters which can effect the retreading industry.  Lists retreading companies and stockists.  Operates a Green Dealer Scheme,  promoting the safety, economic and environmental benefits of retreaded tyres.  (Updated Aug 2004)

Riverside Rubber Co Ltd
Tel 01604 38631 Fax 01604 232449
167-171 Bridge Street, NORTHAMPTON NN1 1QF

Member of the Tyres Continental Group. Tyres and automotive workshop waste collection on toll basis with recycling where possible. Suitable tyres are passed on for re-treading. Those unsuitable are used at Elm Energy's West Midland waste to energy plant.

Rushden Granulating Company Ltd
Tel 01933 623249 Fax 01933 460095
Email sales@playsafesurfaces.com 
Upper Higham Lane, RUSHDEN, Northants NN10 0SU

Collects scrap lorry tyres (pays approx £3 per casing) to make play surfaces.  Also takes other types of waste, which must be checked beforehand for quality. (Updated Mar 2001)

SITA Tyre Recycling

Tel 01902 408608 Fax 01902 408517
Ettingshall Road, Bilston, Wolverhampton WV2 2LA

French owned tyre burning facility, taking up to 100,000 scrap tyres a year, and supplying electricity to Powergen.

South East Recycling

Tel 01708 522622 Fax 01708 522229
Units 5-6 Marshview Estate, Ferry Lane, RAINHAM, Essex RM13 9BU

Granulation of scrap tyres to crumb and chip.

Tyre Industry Council

Tel 0207 583 9365 Fax 0207 353 0394
c/o British Rubber Manufacturers Association, 90 Tottenham Court Road, LONDON W1P 0BR

Trade body concerned with promotional and educational activities related to tyres. Affiliated bodies are BRMA, Imported Tyre Manufacturers Association, and Retread Manufacturers Association.

Used Tyre Working Group
Website www.tyredisposal.co.uk 

Website aiming to increase awareness of used tyre disposal in UK.  Information on methods to dispose of and recycle used tyres.  Lists tyre collectors, and companies registered to carry out tyre disposal, including tyre crumbing for new uses.  Site has bulletin board for info, questions and comments.  Reports and statistics on site, and links to Environment Agency Tyre Watch bulletin.   Formed 1995 to link industry and Government on used tyre recovery issues, by directors of the four tyre trade associations, industry representatives, the Environment Agency and Department of Trade and Industry.  Works on requirements of landfill directive and reports to government on performance and trends. (Updated Aug 2004)

University of Maine

Tel (001) 207 581 3777
Dept of Public Affairs, Orono ME 04469 - 5761, ORONO, USA

Expertise based on successful experimental work on using tyre chips as a construction material with unusual properties. (Used as a road foundation over soft compressible ground; or backfill to reduce pressure behind retaining walls.)

Wellington Rubber Co Ltd

Tel 0113 270 4525 / 0113 271 1818
Brown Lane Trading Estate, Brown Lane West, LEEDS, West Yorks LS11 0EG

Rubber processing and import and export merchant.

World Rubber
Tel 01933 627167  Fax 01933 460095  Email nickmason@worldrubber.co.uk
Upper Higham Lane, RUSHDEN, Northants NN10 OSU
Contact  Nick Mason

Processes all waste rubber for wide variety of specific applications.  Supplier of rubber crumb from used tyres for use in sports and safety surfaces, and soil conditioning.  Granulation and crumbing produces finely dispersed particles 1-10mm.  (Updated Aug 2004)