Waste tyres are a major environmental concern with approximately 18 million waste tyres generated in Australia each year. Tyres are a valuable source of rubber that can be re-used or recycled to prevent litter, avoid fire hazards, save energy and prevent against environmental contamination
Each year in Australia, the equivalent of 48 million tyres reach the end of their life, only 16% of these are domestically recycled. Around two thirds of used tyres in Australia end up in landfill, are stockpiled, illegally dumped or have an unknown fate.
Waste tyres are a valuable resource that can be re-used, recycled into a range of new products or used as energy. Recycling waste tyres prevents littering of landscapes and waterways, saves energy, avoids fire risks caused by stockpiled tyres (and the release of toxic gases if set alight) and long-term land contamination due to the disposal of tyres in landfill.
In recent years all governments have worked with industry to establish Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA), and the voluntary industry funded tyre product stewardship scheme. This tyre scheme aims to increase both the number of tyres recycled in Australia and the use of products made with recycled material. Tyre industry participants who apply for, and gain TSA accreditation must commit to playing their part in sustainable end-of-life use for tyres.
It is estimated that if a quarter million tonnes of end-of-life tyres in Australia were recycled, it would be the equivalent "everyday" Green House Gas savings of driving a car 1.2 billion km or 31 thousand times around the equator.1
"Everyday" and unit savings per tonne of tyres2 recycled:
|5,179 km driven3|
|1.07 tonnes CO2e|
|35 houses' energy for a month4|
|64.08 GJ LHV (17,814 kWh)|
|298 bath tubs5|
|52.25 kL water|
|19 wheelie bins6|
For an explanation of key terms used, please visit our Glossary.
Waste tyres can be re-used and recycled in a variety of ways, from creating collision reduction barriers, as an alternate fuel source and in road construction as a constituent in asphalt roads. There are many companies in Australia that offer convenient tyre recycling services.
Recycling: Tyres are a mixture of many different ingredients. Apart from rubber, tyres contain steel, fibre, carbon and oil. During recycling processes, tyres are shredded and crumbed so they can be used in the manufacture of soft fall surfaces, artificial turf, conveyer belts, brake pads and other rubber products. The TSA aims to not only increase domestic tyre recycling but to expand the market for tyre-derived products and support the development of new technologies such as Pyrolysis.
Energy recovery: Waste tyres can be used as an alternative fuel source for industries such as producers of energy and cement. When tyres are incinerated at high temperatures hydrocarbons are released which can yield substantial quantities of energy. However, this process is not currently widespread in Australia as it can require investment in new technology.
1. Hyder Consulting (2009) Waste and Recycling in Australia: Amended report. Hyder Consulting, Melbourne
2. Data for rubber tyres (Commercial & Industrial and Construction & Demolition recycling only) contained in Table 4 (p.14) Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW (2010) Environmental Benefits of Recycling, DECCW, Sydney South
3. “Everyday” greenhouse gas emission savings expressed as number of kilometers driven by an average new passenger and light commercial vehicle (206.6g CO2e / km). National Transport Commission (2012) Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Vehicles 2011 Information Paper
4. “Everyday” cumulative energy demand savings expressed as average household monthly electricity requirements (500 kWh). 1GJ LHV = 278kWh (GJ LHV = Giga-joules of fossil energy (low heating value); kWh = Kilowatt hour)
5. “Everyday” water savings corresponding to average sized bath tubs (0.175 kL capacity).
6. “Everyday” solid waste savings represented by number of average sized wheelie bins (55kg capacity)