About 1.5 billion tyres are sold worldwide every year (IRSG Report 2010), and they are naturally destined to become end-of-life tyres. In 2011, about 2.9 million tons of tyres were manufactured in Europe. In the United States, 4.6 million tons of tyres were made in 2007, and 800,000 tons of tyres were produced in Japan.
These numbers clearly indicate the dimensions of the phenomenon and its potential environmental impact.
In these three cases, the efforts made by institutions, producers and recovery chains have made extremely positive results possible. In 2011, 95% of end-of-life tyres (ELT– End-of-Life Tyres) were recycled in Europe.
In the United States, the figure is around 90%, while in Japan the percentage is slightly higher (ETRMA ELT 2011 data). Pirelli has been committed for years now to the management of ELTs both internally, through the research and innovation activity of Pirelli Labs, and by collaborating with major national and international organisations in the sector. Pirelli is in fact active in the Tyre Industry Project (TIPG) of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), in the ELTs working group of ETRMA (European Tyres and Rubber Manufacturers’ Association) and, at the national and local level, it interacts directly with leading organisations active in the recovery and recycling of ELTs. As a member of TIPG, Pirelli Tyre has collaborated on the publication of a report on the management of ELTs, taking a proactive approach to raising the awareness both of emerging countries and those that do not yet have a system for recycling ELTs, and to promote their recycling and reuse according to defined management models, which have already been launched successfully.
TREND IN DISPOSAL OF END-OF-LIFE TYRES IN EUROPE
RECOVERY OF A TYRE AT END OF LIFE
PRODUCTS THAT CAN BE OBTAINED FROM RECYCLING ELTS
Tyres are a mix of numerous materials that influence how they are recovered:
- material recycling: the tyre can be used as-is, or after physical treatment in countless applications, from civil engineering works to the production of asphalt and compounds ready to be reused in production processes;
- energy recovery: due to the high energy content that characterises ELTs, higher even than coal, ELTs are used as fuel in thermoelectric plant ovens and in cement manufacturing plant ovens, guaranteeing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions due to their biomass content resulting from natural rubber, which is close to or greater than 20% of their weight.
In regard to material recovery, recycled rubber is already reused by Pirelli in the compounds of new tyres. Together with traditional recovery and disposal methods, this contributes to reducing its environmental impact. Through research in collaboration with various university centres, in the near future it will be possible to improve the quality of compounds in terms of the affinity of their ingredients, thereby increasing the quantity of recoveries introduced with another environmental benefit. All this in addition to a positive drop in the consumption of non-renewable materials.