Discussion on the environmental impact of tires frequently focuses on the management of tires that have reached the end of their useful life (End-of-Life Tires, or ELTs).
It is estimated that every year, a total of 1 billion ELTs are generated. Disposing of these tires in an environmentally sound and productive manner is a high priority goal of the tire business. Across the globe, various regional initiatives have been launched to address this issue supported by government authorities, individual tire manufacturers, and the broader tire industry.
These initiatives recognize that neither the impact nor the value of a tire ends when it can no longer be used on a vehicle. Even at this stage, it still has value as an energy source or as a secondary raw material. ELT recovery provides cost-effective and environmentally sound energy for several industries and can be used as innovative secondary raw materials for the production of new products. However, whilst recovery rates are currently as high as 96% in some regions, effective management is not commonplace across the globe and ELTs continue to be sent to landfill and stockpiles.
In response to public and government interest in the issue, in 2008 the Tire Industry Project formed a working group to investigate the state of end-of-life tire (ELT) management in different parts of the world, and to better understand different stakeholders’ roles in the management process.
The first report of the group, Managing End-of-Life Tires, published in November 2008, addresses the need for more information on ELTs and their management. The report outlines what ELTs are, the environmental impacts that they can have, and what has been and can be done to ensure they are properly managed. The summary and full report can be downloaded here.
Following the publication of this report in December 2008, the working group focused on developing the learning from different ELT management systems around the world with the aim of encouraging effective ELT management. The results of this work are described in the manual End-of-Life Tires: A Framework for Effective ELT Management Systems, published in June 2010. This manual covers all aspects of ELT management, including identification of different stakeholders along the chain of management and different options for recovery routes. The manual highlights different ELT management systems worldwide, and provides a checklist for any organization wanting to initiate a formal ELT management system in a country with little or no existing management, or to improve an existing system.