‘Only about 40 of the 90 or more tyre recycling plants in Europe remained open during Covid-19 pandemic,’ says end-of-life tyres specialist Fazilet Cinaralp. She shared her outlook for recycled rubber in a recent webinar organised by the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR).
Cinaralp, secretary general of the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA), said the industry had seen collection rates slashed by up to 80% although the situation was now ‘easing’. ‘But we’ve seen a big loss in production volumes. It doesn’t help that the automotive industry has had a hard time.’
Normally, around 42% of the 12 million tonnes of end-of-life tyres (ELTs) are recycled. ‘Sadly, extremely low prices for virgin materials is making it difficult to run a profitable business,’ Cinaralp noted. ‘Tyre recyclers in our network carried out a survey and say they’ve experienced a drop of almost 90% in terms of turnover.’
She expects the tyre recycling sector to return to healthy performance levels by 2022. ‘We have taken a few steps backwards, that’s the way to see it. It will take a while to get momentum back.’
Meanwhile, there is a heated debate about polymeric granules used as infill material, with people debating whether or not they should be banned. ‘We know rubber is a wonderful material with great elasticity and durability properties. Yet lobbyists have a systematic view, damning all polymers sparked by fears over micro-beads and plastic waste.’
Cinaralp suggests risk management measures could be an answer. ‘The infill market is hugely important to rubber recyclers. About 80% goes into this application. It would be catastrophic if we lost this market.’
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