End of waste status

ELTs – a valuable resource for the future

With 2.6 million tonnes of ELTs recovered annually in Europe and more than 600,000 tonnes of used tyres either reused or sent for retreading, the tyre industry has promoted a promising economic activity that is beneficial to the environment while creating over 10.000 jobs. Hence, the industry is now on the edge of turning ELTs into a resource.

But a major obstacle to that is the persisting qualification of the derived products of ELTs as waste under the EU Waste Directive 2008/98/EC. As a matter of fact, the current definition of waste for end-of-life tyre derived products leads to serious administrative and financial burdens (collection, transportation, etc), which are slowing down the development of further routes of recovery. This approach contrasts with the European Union's Strategy aiming to make Europe resource-efficient and to encourage a sustainable use of natural resources.

Hence there is a need for legislative back-up setting end of waste criteria for rubber-derived materials.

End-of-life tyres are particularly well positioned to be excluded from the waste status, since they comply with end of waste criteria enshrined in the EU Waste Framework Directive:

  • A market or demand for ELT derived materials exists.
  • ELT derived materials are commonly used for specific purposes, meet related technical requirements as well as existing legislation and standards applicable to products.

To illustrate this, ELTs have a wide range of use in the form of powders and granules; the main applications of which are synthetic turf, industrial floors, sport fields and children playgrounds, while equestrian floors, moulded pieces (industry & urban furniture) and anti-vibratory and insulation mats are markets in development. The use of granules in concrete, asphalt, road paving and new compounds is a promising route.

Source: Signus

Source: Aliapur

  • The use of ELT derived materials does not lead to overall adverse environmental or human health impacts

Over the last 7 years, several Life Cycle Analyses (LCAs) have been performed in Europe to compare the environmental impacts of different ELT recovery routes, which has provided the industry with a better knowledge of the positive contribution of replacing virgin raw materials with ELTs. Generally speaking, the benefits provided by the recovery of ELTs come from using them as substitutes for high energy-consumption materials, avoiding the production and transport of certain substituted materials when the life span of ELT products is greater than that of the products they replace, as well as the biomass portion of ELTs for energy recovery.

Those studies demonstrate that all ELTs recovery methods analysed provide net environmental benefits (i.e. higher impacts being avoided than generated, explaining the negative value for the indicator), regardless of the environmental impact considered. The table below illustrates this for the Global Warming Potential indicator.

Therefore, a management policy for ELTs based on the combination of all recovery methods results in environmental benefits.