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Publications archive - Waste and recycling

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

A National Approach to Waste Tyres

Commonwealth Department of Environment, 2001

8 Waste Tyres That Need Special Consideration

8.1 The opportunity

This is not so much a separate option, but rather a discussion on considerations that underlie all options. Much of the assessment presented above assumes that the costs associated with materials handling (collection and transport of waste tyres) are relatively low, or that sufficient waste tyres are available to defray the fixed costs of certain practices. The consequence is that much of the discussion has been relevant for major urban areas in the capital cities, surrounding areas and large regional centres (which account for approximately 65% of total travel in Australia). Waste tyre management in small remote communities requires specific consideration. The opportunity is to manage tyres better in areas where the main options are not so effective.

8.2 The impediments

For any specific option and in relation to the conditions at any point in time, thresholds can be established for the materials handling costs. If the actual costs exceed these thresholds, then certain options will not be feasible. The options may represent specific waste tyre practices (such as production of rubber crumb) or they may relate to more strategic considerations such as transport to a central holding facility.

The main factors that contribute to the value assumed by the threshold for a given option are the number or rate of waste tyre generation and the distance to a facility of a specified type. The problems associated with these thresholds can occur at different scales. For example, a small community may be only 100 km from a facility, but difficulties are experienced because of the low numbers of tyres generated locally. On the other hand, the number of waste tyres generated annually in Perth is well over 1 million. But if this rate is insufficient to justify investment in specific plants or facilities, then it is likely to be uneconomic, notwithstanding economies of scale, to transport the tyres to a facility in the east.

It may be remarked that over time there will be changes in the thresholds. These changes will be driven by the development of new or improved technologies with lower fixed costs particularly capital costs, cost reductions in materials handling processes, the availability of good infrastructure for managing waste tyre flows and market impacts on prices for end-products. As a result, the choices in relation to management of waste tyres for small and isolated communities will change over time. However, for the foreseeable future it is expected that it will not be viable to manage all waste tyres according to the options considered earlier.

There are special considerations in the case of OTR tyres on mine sites. Giant earthmoving tyres raise specific issues in regard to availability of suitable equipment, but may also provide specific opportunities to overcome the problems associated with long distances.

8.3 Options for waste tyres that need special consideration

The two main options for passenger and truck tyres are:

Corbett (1999) has evaluated four options for managing waste tyres at mine sites:

8.4 Assessment

The benefits of improved management practices for waste passenger and truck tyres are qualitatively similar to those for the options in the more densely settled areas in relation to generating value from the tyre.

In regard to environmental impacts, some differences may be noted. Because of the lower number of waste tyres, the cumulative impacts will be spread over a wider area and will not be so concentrated. Also, a smaller number of people will be affected by any impacts that do occur. In terms of avoided impacts from disposal, controls on inappropriate disposal and the level of monitoring will be lower in small communities, but the pressure on landfill space is also much less. The upshot is that low landfill fees remove some of the incentives for illegal dumping, but environmental management at remote landfills is often minimal, particularly in regard to fire safety and control of breeding grounds for mosquitoes. In comparison with urban areas, many of the effects counteract each other and it is difficult to compare the relative resource costs and risks to the environment.

8.4.1 Option 1: Collection of tyres for subsequent transfer

The requirements for a waste tyre holding facility are similar in small communities as those outlined in Part II.5. The particular considerations here relate to provision of security measures at what presumably would be unstaffed sites, so as to keep the risks of fire at an acceptable level.

The major issue with option 1 is freight rates. Depending on the actual transport distance, line haul transport costs are estimated to be of the order of $10 per tyre in the case of whole tyres. This cost would come down if tyres were shredded on location, but this would need a certain number of waste tyres before it was economic to bring a shredder to the site.

It can be presumed that there is available capacity for the return trip for general goods transport vehicles to most remote areas. There may however be issues in relation to difficulties in handling waste tyres and the risk of despoiling or contamination of vehicles, containers or other goods. Trucking companies are reported to be reluctant to offer concessional rates for backloading waste tyres. It is understood that a number of jurisdictions (Queensland, NT and WA) are assessing joint approaches towards finding opportunities for transfer of waste tyres to larger centres.

It is difficult to suggest positive policies to deal with this issue. The main avenue for progressing this option would appear to involve some form of direct financial support, whether this was funded by the local community or through some form of subsidy. But the question must be raised whether, in fact, it is a valid and sensible objective to extract increasingly remote tyres when faced by a steepening marginal cost curve.

8.4.2 Option 2: Low fixed cost technologies

Many technological practices for waste tyres require large investments regardless of the numbers of tyres processed. The only beneficial uses that do not have high upfront costs are civil engineering applications. For example, the proprietors of the Ecoflex technology have indicated that their equipment costs $10,000 and is easily transportable. However, to derive the benefits, there must be sufficient demand for the end-products to make its use attractive in using locally generated waste tyres.

8.4.3 Waste tyres at mine sites

Table 8.1 shows the cost estimates have been made for the management of large earthmoving tyres.

Table 8.1 Cost estimates for the management of large earth moving tyres

Option Cost/tyre
($)
Comments
Producer responsibility $100-$1000 Does not include cost for final fate
Shredding for TDF $370+ Includes transport
on-site burial (shredded) $175
on-site burial (whole) $30

Source: Corbett (1999).

8.5 A national approach?

The development of low cost flexible technologies to deal with waste tyres generated in small communities appears to be a worthwhile candidate for funding research and development. As discussed in Part II.6, R&D is rightly considered on a national scale.

Current joint initiatives by three jurisdictions to explore low cost transport alternatives point the way for a national perspective on options in this area.

If funding is available in a national scheme, then consideration could be given to direct assistance for managing waste tyres from small remote communities on an interim basis. As with all decisions regarding funding, it will be necessary for the fund manager to carefully evaluate the benefits from competing bids for funding, in view of the relatively low impact that waste tyres have in these areas and the amount of money needed on a per tyre basis.