Tyre recycling brings significant environmental benefits that are well-documented and are entirely in line with the objectives to transition towards a carbon-neutral and circular economy.
In the EU, end-of-life tyre have been since many years recycled mechanically. This is the most sustainable route, in terms of environmental footprint, which is carried out by companies represented by EuRIC at EU level. Mechanical tyre recycling produces rubber, steel and textile fibers that substitute virgin materials in a number of end-applications.
The alternative to end-of-life recycling is currently co-incineration with energy recovery in cement kilns. It is by far the least sustainable option since highly valuable raw materials are lost in the process and the process results in net CO2 emission. Yet, the co-incineration of end-of-life tyres has received increased attention over the last year due to some external developments:
- Firstly, raising energy prices has been giving a competitive advantage for the incineration of good raw materials in tyres in comparison with virgin energy sources, e.g. oil. This was especially the case in the 2nd half of 2022 when oil prices were skyrocketing. This is not the case anymore, oil prices are now down to the pre-Ukraine war level.
- Secondly, a ban on the use of recycled rubber as an infill in sport and leisure turf, has been causing some disturbance as this has been an important market for tyre recyclers as us. The ban will be put into force 8 years from now – in 2032 at best – and we still remain to see the possible consequences. Turf owners can freely over the next 8 years build new pitches using rubber granules from end-of-life tyres. If they install risk management measures in order to minimize the spread of rubber outside the turf – which we recommend – the need for a refill will be very limited and will easily be covered by a small stock of material when the ban is put into force. As there is documentation for the effectiveness of risk management measures, the European mechanical tyre recycling industry will be presenting facts and research to the Commission over the next years trying to influence a withdrawal of the ban if risk management measures are implemented.
On the other hand, another initiative by the EU – the Waste Shipment Regulation – will restrict the export of tyre shreds for incineration outside the EU. Tyre shreds are classified as waste and will therefore be covered by this export restriction. This new framework legislation shall also restrict unprocessed end-of-life tyres (ELTs) exports to countries whose treatment standards are much lower than those applicable in the EU.
On top, new applications are being developed for the use of recycled rubber in various end-markets and will likely be supported by European policy-makers, mechanical tyre recycling won’t only remain the most sound environmental treatment of ELTs; it shall also remain the primary route for ELTs for many years to come. In addition, emerging chemical recycling processes will continue to rely on mechanical recycling which is key to feedstock preparation.
Last but not least, the revision of Europe’s framework and sectorial waste legislation will likely further restrict waste landfilling and incineration to the strictest minimum.
EuRIC MTR Members are ready to take care of the tyres from tyre collectors, deliver the state-of-the-art sustainable and clean products that our customers require, and invest in developing new applications with our partners for a sustainable future, in full compliance with applicable legislation.
Secretary General of EuRIC
 EuRIC Mechanical Recycling Factsheet: https://euric.org/resource-hub/reports-studies/mechanical-tyre-recycling-factsheet