Big tyres. Big challenges. Even bigger opportunities.

Tyre Stewardship Australia sees value in off-the-road tyres.

There is now a $16 million (and growing) market for crumb in Australia – with markets for other tyre-derived materials emerging – creating new commercial opportunities for mines and the communities in which they operate.

ESG managers at mines have a lot to consider when making decisions about off-the-road (OTR) tyre disposal. There’s cost, compliance, sustainability, community expectations and productivity. Always productivity.

Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) has positioned itself as a leader in understanding these OTR challenges by talking with various stakeholders in the tyre value chain, from minerals councils, mining companies and manufacturers to local government, recyclers and community groups.

TSA chief executive officer Lina Goodman said the obstacles to an effective ecosystem for OTR tyres were in fact manageable.

“There’s no doubt that end-of-life OTR tyres pose a challenge for mines,” she told Australian Mining. 

“Recovery of used mining tyres is expensive and complex. A large proportion of used OTR tyres are on remote mine locations, many kilometres away from recycling processing plants, most of which are in metro locations. It makes sense that most mines will choose to apply for an EPA license to bury those tyres on-site.

“But we have now reached a tipping point in Australia, and it’s time to make other alternatives viable.”

Tyre Stewardship Australia chief executive officer Lina Goodman.

The tipping point to which Goodman refers is the Government’s national waste reduction policy and action plan, which mean 80 per cent of all waste streams are expected to be recycled by 2030, and mines are being called on to identify solutions now.

Goodman said such targets are achievable and has positioned TSA to contribute significantly to the cause.

“With funding and collaborative efforts across industries, we have seen the dial shift from a 50–90 per cent productive recovery rate for tyres from the passenger, bus and truck sector,” she said.

“We believe that we can achieve similar results in the OTR sector, including mining, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and aviation, which currently recovers less than 15 per cent.”

TSA has already funded $7 million into development of new products using components recovered from end-of-life tyres.

As a result, there is now a market for crumb products worth $16 million per year.

There are 50 major research and development projects at various stages of completion to increase Australia’s ability to recover and process rubber waste into new products.

These products include spray seal, blast protective concrete, crumb rubber roads, permeable pavement, safety barriers and liquid fuel.

With 85,000 tonnes of OTR tyres consumed each year, mining is the catalyst for change, according to Goodman

“We believe mines can turn the tyranny of distance into an opportunity on a local level, for the communities in which they operate,” she said.

“Mining produces a critical mass of used OTR tyres where we need them in regional, rural and remote areas to attract and motivate collectors, recyclers and investors.”

With this volume of used tyres already on their doorstep, communities and businesses can work with their local mine operators to apply for TSA funding to innovate and find solutions for end-of-life tyres. 

One of those domestic markets is the mining sector itself, which can use products created from the tyres it has to throw out. If this can be done on a local level, there are huge benefits to be gained ranging from stimulus for local economies, to cost and carbon savings and reducing the burden for future generations.

TSA will test this thinking in 2022, with a series of trials in the NT, WA and NSW that will gather data on the logistics of handling and transporting end-of-life OTR tyres, and opportunities for local business investment. 

Currently, over half of companies importing tyres into Australia have signed up to help find solutions for the mining industry and other OTR tyre users.

From January 2022, Bearcat, Bridgestone Mining Solutions, Goodyear, Kal Tire, Michelin and Yokohama will voluntarily pay a levy, through the Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme, of between $7.50 and $50 on each tyre sold into the Australian market.

This will be reinvested by TSA, through its Market Development Program to reduce barriers and increase opportunities in logistics, infrastructure and end markets.

“This is a smart investment in the future of their own markets,” Goodman said. 

“They have chosen to move beyond the problem and become part of the solution. In doing so, they are paving the way for OTR tyre users, such as mining, to leverage opportunities from Australia’s circular tyre economy and reduce the burden of buried waste on future generations.”  

This article also appears in the March issue of Australian Mining.

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