Every year three million tyres [Note: Tyrewise believes this is more like 5 million] are put into landfills, dumped or “stockpiled” on private land – but there are risks of the tyres catching fire and leaching toxic chemicals into soil and waterways.
Currently whenever a tyre is bought a disposal fee – usually between $4 and $5 a tyre – is collected by tyre sellers. But once end-of life tyres are returned to sellers there is no regulation ensuring the tyres will be disposed of in a responsible way.
Environment Minister Nick Smith has called for innovative ideas for alternative uses of tyres – as the market for recycled rubber products or chipped tyres is limited.
Listen to Tyrewise’s Adele Rose and Waikato Regional Council’s Patrick Lynch spoke to Nine to Noon about the tyre issue
Since 2010 the Government has spent over $700,000 on various investigations into the economics and practicalities of how to deal with waste tyres, including a $155,000 contribution to the Tyrewise project, which comprised industry players like Bridgestone and the Motor Vehicle Association.
Tyrewise recommended there be a mandatory product stewardship scheme to replace the ad-hoc collection of fees already being implemented, with the fees being directed into directly into the tyre recycling industry.
Tyrewise representatives say a proper programme is required for collection, transport and appropriate storage of used tyres, which would mean there would make recycling schemes viable.
A $100,000 KPMG report commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment also said a mandatory scheme should be developed.
But so far Nick Smith is resisting that, saying that the problem is in identifying alternative uses.
Bridgestone – which is the largest retailer of tyres in the country – says New Zealand falls well short of its OECD peers with regards to end of life tyres.
Its managing director Andrew Moffatt says he has written to the Environment Minister Nick Smith and is seeking a meeting with him on the matter.
Mr Moffatt says while Bridgestone has compulsory recycling in the North Island there is no collection or recycling service available in the South Island.
Meanwhile the New Zealand Transport Agency is this week set to release research by Opus Consultants on the potential of ‘crumb rubber’ from old tyres as a bitumen binder for the construction of roads.
It’s found key barriers are the high initial cost of specialist equipment, the relatively small market, security of supply and implications of the industry’s switch to emulsion binders.
But the report says there is a growing appetite for better performing roads and changes could be made to use tyre rubber in the roading network.
Million tyres create toxic mess
Waikato Regional Council estimated nearly one million tyres which are buried, sitting in or below groundwater and leaching toxic chemicals on Ross Desmond Britten’s former property at Naike.
The former Waitakere councillor was convicted under breaches of the Resource Management Act, but absconded to Australia before his sentencing. His company was fined $77,500.
The tyres remain on the land – which was on-sold.
But Waikato Regional Council’s Investigations Manager Patrick Lynch says if contamination of the groundwater reaches critical levels, it will seek an order for the tyres to be removed at the new land owners’ expense.