Adele Rose is Chief Executive of 3R Group, Implementation Project Managers for Tyrewise, New Zealand’s first regulated product stewardship scheme for end-of-life tyres.
Recently I had the privilege of spending a week in Canberra at the invitation of Tyre Stewardship Australia, as they look to move from voluntary to regulated product stewardship for end-of-life tyres.
I returned home with a large dose of optimism that what the New Zealand tyre supply chain and 3R have been working on over the last 12 years is a game changer. Not just for our environment but also the economic value that can be delivered when we change our thinking, and our systems, to see end-of-life tyres as a resource and not waste.
The week-long summit was instigated by Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) to enable the Australian Federal and State Government environment representatives and key industry stakeholders to engage with long-running schemes on regulated tyre stewardship and optimal resource recovery.
TSA has operated for over a decade as a voluntary scheme with a focus on market development through significant investment in R&D. Recognition that a voluntary approach isn’t solving the problem at scale has now led to a push for regulation. In the same way Tyrewise was developed, Australia is looking to other schemes to learn and adapt international best practice to their local operating environment.
Tire Stewardship British Columbia was one of the schemes in attendance. They have been operating under regulation since 2006, and now recover and process 100% of end-of-life tyres within the province. Ecopneus scpa of Italy, operating since 2011, also shared their experience under regulation. They now recover the equivalent of 42 million passenger tyres each year.
Liberty Tire Recycling, as leaders in their field, provided insight into transforming end-of-life tyres into products that can be used in other processes. As project manager of Tyrewise since 2012, I shared our industry’s experience working in a co-design process with government.
After working closely with the TSA over the years, learning much from their organisation as we developed our scheme, it was a privilege to now share our knowledge as New Zealand’s first regulated product stewardship scheme nears launch.
The opportunity for global collaboration was a key take out from the summit. Different countries have unique challenges, such as our very expensive piece of water that separates our North and South islands, but the value in sharing knowledge amongst international programmes is immense as we seek to move the recovered resources from tyres up the waste hierarchy and convert these into high-value products.
And it’s not a dream out of reach – it’s happening now amongst our trading partners. With Tyrewise soon to launch, it was heartening to know we will not be left behind.
A valuable lesson from the more established schemes was that while trying to move up the waste hierarchy towards these high-value products is a key goal, the value of tyre-derived fuel should not be underestimated. It not only provides an opportunity to replace coal in certain industrial processes reducing carbon emissions, it also provides an important safety net to help manage total demand. During the Covid pandemic many markets closed, while the demand for tyre-derived fuel was largely undiminished.
Many of the discussions over the week focused on the importance of weighting investment in market development and R&D – but not with each country doing its own thing. Sharing knowledge should be truly global, irrespective of whether a country has no scheme at all, is voluntary, or is moving to a regulatory approach, this knowledge can be applied for the benefit of Te Taiao, our environment.
The example of tyre-derived products in sports fields and playgrounds is of note here. Research showing the importance of properly constructing and maintaining these grounds is critically important to avoid dispersal of microplastics. We can take on board these lessons from the start.
A lack of processing for large OTR tyres from the mining and forestry sectors in New Zealand will be an area of focus for Tyrewise once launched. Fortunately, demand for the rubber and demand to clean up old sites globally is seeing innovation move quickly in this area. This bodes well for us within a collaborative approach.
When Tyrewise was first designed back in 2012, we sought out global knowledge to make sure that we learnt from others mistakes and built on their successes. At the summit, the international schemes committed to continue this collaboration. No matter how long our programmes have been operating, continuous improvement remains the goal. Our value of “together we are kaitiaki” took on a whole new meaning during the week.
On my return I was saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Federico Dossena of Italy’s Ecopneus scpa, which has been operating since 2011. I found him to be a larger-than-life character, warm, and with a love for a good joke. Passionate about creating positive environmental impacts from tyres, he was a wealth of knowledge on regulated solutions. His legacy will be the experience and knowledge that he so generously shared with all of us in his memorable and enthusiastic way.