A Framework for Compiling Baseline Data to Develop a Tyre Reuse and Recycling System

Hari Srinivas
Data Trends Series E-116. June 2020


Used tyres pose a potential problem in their disposal. The massive volumes of tyres that are being disposed are polluting the environment, degrading air, water and land resources.

Hundreds or even thousands of discarded tyres create not only an eyesore but public health and safety hazards as well. Discarded tires are convenient breeding grounds for mosquitoes and rodents, which carry a host of diseases. Scrap tires in landfills can also damage the landfill linings that have been installed to help keep surface and groundwater free from landfill contaminants.

Another problem with discarded used tires is the risk of fire: tire pile fires can smolder for weeks and months, releasing extremely toxic pollutants into the air, creating serious respiratory and other health problems for people in the vicinity and many miles away. Runoff water from such fires are also laden with toxins, which can contaminate water supplies.

The potential of reusing or recycling used tyres are only now being realized. A number of examples exist:

  • Tyres are shredded and used as a road surfacing material when mixed with bitumen (reduces noise and provides a good cushion for vehicles). The shock-absorbing properties of rubber are an added safety factor and the roads are durable and easy to maintain.

  • Shredded and used to create a number of products such as stationary, shoe soles, roofing and flooring tiles, etc. A wide variety of industrial uses, where rubber is used, can potentially use recycled and shredded/pulverized tyres.

  • Recycled rubber granules from tyres can be used to provide a base for athletics tracks, and a rubber base also makes for more realistic artificial grass.

  • Crumbed recycled rubber makes a very durable carpet underlay. Some carpet manufacturers use more than 90 percent granulated care tyres for carpets. The underlay is particularly suitable for halls, stairs and landings, which get heavy traffic.

  • Gardens and landscaped parks can typically contain mulch made from shredded tyres, instead of wood chippings.

  • Many examples exist of using tyres as abase material for building artificial reefs in coastal areas. Although tyres contain potentially toxic materials, the underwater environment seems to keep them stable; seaweed grows on them readily and they provide a habitat for fish, lobsters and other marine life. Some countries have also used tyres for beach nourishments and coastal defenses. This is particularly useful for large tyres from trucks and heavy equipment.

  • As a fuel: Tyres have a high calorific value, similar to coal, and used in combination they produce a very efficient burn. Some kilns can take whole tyres, others work on shreds or chips, and kilns can usually replace around 10 per cent of their coal needs with old tyres. For example, 20 percent of tyres in UK and 60 percent in Germany are recycled by burning them in cement kilns.

Baseline Data Framework

The framework outlined in this document provides a brief outline of the baseline data that will be necessary to create a foundation against which future goals and targets can be set and measured.

Understanding the policy options for tyre disposal is a critical starting point that is facilitated by the qualitative and quantitative data obtained from the framework. It will also help to understand the potential and develop a unique and customized tyre reuse/recycling system for different localities.

1. Basic information on used tyres
Data Source of tyres (vehicle types)
Sources of data Transportation agency, vehicle dealerships, Vehicle registration agencies etc.
Details This will give an idea of the volume of tyres that will be generated in the future.
  • What kinds of vehicles generate used tyres?
  • What percentage of them are private or public owners?
  • What percentage are small and large vehicles?
Need for such data This data will help in understanding the source and types of tyres being discarded, and the ownership of vehicles.

Understanding the ownership pattern of the vehicles will help in developing and implementing laws or regulations related to tyres, as different target groups need different kinds of regulations.

Potential problems Difficult to get data on old vehicles or vehicles in small towns or rural areas. Vehicles entering the city from other areas are also difficult to document.
Data Weight and volume of tyres
Sources of data Need to be estimated based on above data. Manufacturer’s specification can be used to estimate the weight and volume of tyres currently in use. (This is different and separate from tyres already disposed and in the waste disposal site – see below)
Details Total volume (cu.m.) of used tyres generated, and its weight (kgs or tons).
Need for such data The data provides an indication of the amount of used tyres generated that will have to be processed for recycling, or reusing.

It also indicates the volume available for any industry that may want to use the tyres for producing other products.

Potential problems -
Data Composition of tyres
Sources of data Manufacturer’s specifications, research studies and other online/offline sources
Details Different types of tyres are composed of different materials, besides the main ingredient – rubber. These include, for example, Ba, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, Sb, Sr, V, Zn etc.

Components can be expressed as mg/kg

Need for such data Presence of other materials in the tyres, besides rubber, will impact on the purposes for which used tyres can be used and the chemical processes that may be needed to prepare it for reuse/recycle.

It will also highlight potential hazardous nature of the components and safety requirements in handling and using tyres.

As tyres pose a fire risk, proper handling during a fire disaster is critical, and this data will help in putting a good fire-response system, and highlight risks involved during such disasters.

Potential problems Data obtained depends on availability of manufacturer’s information and companies supplying the tyres.
2. Used tyre collection process (Private sector)
Data Collection points
Sources of data Car dealerships, Chambers of Commerce, published reports, automotive industry reports etc.
Details This data identifies the collection points of used tyres in the private sector.
  • Types and numbers of enterprises that handle used tyres?
  • Approximately how much tyres are collected?
  • What is done to the tyres collected?
  • What (in their opinion) is the potential for recycling?
Need for such data This data will help in developing a logical collection and disposal route system, particularly linking these collection points directly to any industry that may want to use used tyres.

It also provides an indication of the absorptive capacity (entrepreneurial or technological) of these agents to new systems of tyre collection and reuse/recycle.

Awareness raising and education programmes for tyre maintenance can also be developed specifically, using this information.

Potential problems Complete data may be difficult to find, particularly for informal or SME enterprises, and/or illegally dumped tyres.
Data Collection agents
Sources of data Car dealerships, Chambers of Commerce, published reports, automotive or tyre industry reports etc.
Information can also be collected from municipal officials or other sources.
Targeted interviews with some larger business heads can also be done.
Details Who collects the tyres? What kinds of businesses are involved in the collection process? How many such businesses exist? What is their motivation to be in the business?
Need for such data Provides a starting point to understand the existing market and provide information to streamline the collection process so that tyres can be recycled effectively.

It also provides an indication of the absorptive capacity (entrepreneurial or technological) of these agents to new systems of tyre collection and reuse/recycle.

Awareness raising and education programmes for tyre maintenance can also be developed specifically, using this information.

Potential problems Precise and complete/comprehensive information may be difficult to obtain – hence sample data or case study-type descriptions are also all right.
3. Used tyre collection process (Public sector)
Data Collection process
Sources of data Municipal records
Details This dataset outlines the process of collection of tyres for disposal by the municipal government’s waste department.
  • Collection vehicles?
  • Collection/pick-up points (household/commercial/industrial)?
  • Frequency?
  • Disposal site?
  • Other details, if any?
Need for such data This data helps in understanding the role of the municipal government in the tyre collection process and how an effective reuse and recyle system for tyres can be built.

It will also help in estimating potential costs involved in disposing tyres, and build a good cost recovery system (at collection point, or at point of purchase).

Awareness raising and education programmes for tyre maintenance can also be developed specifically, using this information.

Potential problems Separate data for tyres alone may not be available – tyres may be mixed with everyday wastes and collected/disposed.
Data Tyres in landfill
Sources of data Estimated from landfill dump site observations. The total volume is estimated from the land area and height of the dump
Details This gives an indication of the volume and weight of tyres already disposed in the landfill.
Need for such data Tyres in landfill are a hazard on their own – resulting from its composition – that may pollute the soil and ground water directly.

They also pose a potential fire hazard and resulting toxic air pollution and health hazard to neighbouring communities in case they catch fire.

This data will help develop a comprehensive picture of the potential scenarios from tyres in landfills, and may also point to solutions.

Potential problems Only approximate values can be estimated. This assumes that tyres are separated and dumped in a designated area in the landfill. If it is simply dumped mixed along with other commercial and household wastes, estimation is impossible, and should be indicated as such. Also, tyres are sometimes illegally dumped in private or public areas.
4. The Tyre market
Data Volume of tyres reused/rethreaded
Sources of data Car dealerships, Chambers of Commerce, published reports, automotive or tyre industry reports etc. Private sector leaders may also be interviewed to obtain their opinion on estimates.
Details This dataset focuses on the current or existing market for used tyres.

This can be expressed as kgs or tons used; the purpose for which it is used; the type of the entity that uses it (public, private; SME; informal etc.)

Need for such data This data provides a picture of the nature of the market that reuses and recycles tyres.

While precise data may be difficult to obtain, it is important as it points to local potential and entrepreneurship, for both existing and future uses.

Potential problems Only estimated values can be obtained. There may not be any specific records for this purpose.
Data Export of tyres
Sources of data Shipping data, export records, published reports etc.
Details The volume and/or weight of used tyres that are exported overseas for processing and use in other countries.
Need for such data It provides an indication of the potential international market for export of used tyres
Potential problems Precise data may not be available. Export of tyres may be governed under international agreements for export of waste materials.
5. Working Context for Used Tyres
Data Legal, socio-economic and environmental aspects
Sources of data Government departments, published reports
Details This essentially lists out all the legal, socio-economic and environmental aspects that will influence any used tyre system that may be put in place. These details are descriptive in nature and can include:
  • Relevant laws and regulations
  • GDP, incomes, job creation goals
  • Health of the private and informal sectors
  • Skills and training needed
  • Technology transfer and development needed for new products and services
  • State of environment in general, and the potential threat that tyres could pose (both general info and specific to the situation)
Need for such data This data (both qualitative and quantitative, where relevant) provides an overall picture of the external contexts within which any tyre reuse/recycling system will function.
Potential problems While laws may exist, there could be implementation problems that reduce their impact.

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Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org