Trends in ELT Recycling and the UK Market

The ELT industry is a large and complex one both in the UK and further afield. However, there are some key trends that can be seen. These are largely driven by the need to regulate and control an industry that is dealing with potentially very polluting materials and which in the past has not been well regulated from an environmental point of view. As vehicle use increases over time, the supply of ELTs will continue to increase and the options for easy disposal of those ELTs will diminish.

  • More than 4 billion ELTs are already stockpiled worldwide (Business Council for Sustainability Development) and around 1.8 billion more are being produced each year (see left)

  • Roughly 50% of ELTs are incinerated or landfilled worldwide generating noxious air pollution and land pollution. Landfilled or stockpiled tyres do not decompose rapidly but leak methane gas which adds to global warming

  • Alternative uses for ELTs such as playground surfaces and sports tracks are thought to leach carcinogens. A report by Environmental and Human Health Inc in June 2020 found a number of recognized carcinogenic substances in rubber crumb and concluded that exposure could lead to cancer and respiratory issues

  • The traditional Carbon Black industry uses heavy fuel oil as a feedstock which is incompletely burnt to produce Carbon Black (tyre manufacturing is one of the largest users of Carbon Black). This process is highly polluting and also produces significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Recycling in this field is in its infancy

  • Europe, including the UK, is dependent on exports of whole tyres and tyre derived fuels (TDFs), such as shredded tyres, to overseas markets. The introduction of (EU) 2018/1579 of 18 October 2018, reduces the options for the scraping of vehicles tyres within the UK.   

  • As of 2017, within the UK as cited by the Used Tyre Working Group, just over 50% of tyres are now recycled. Roughly 6% of this is civil engineering projects and backfilling. The remainder is granulated and used for AstroTurf, equestrian tracks, and running tracks, as well as being incorporated into cement

  • The other 50% of the market share, within the UK, is applied to energy use. 83% of this is used in cement kilns and the remaining 17% is applied in urban heating and power plants. Use of shredded tyres as a fuel in the cement industry are reducing as alternative fuels are found further increasing the need for ELT management (BEIS, 2019)

  • These statistics do not account for exports. According to UK statistics in 2018 £3 million worth of waste tyres were exported to Eastern Europe and £1.5 million exported to non-EU countries such as India and increasingly Pakistan. These avenues are closing rapidly which has meant that the proportion of stockpiled ELTs awaiting treatment is increasing year on year within the UK (ETRMA, 2019).

  • Governments are waking up to the problem and starting to restrict what can be done with ELTs. 

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