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Tyre recyclers ‘no longer the poor relations’

An upbeat view of the end-of-life tyre (ELT) industry was delivered during the Tyres and Rubber session at the recent BIR covention in Dubai.

Chairman Max Craipeau wondered if “there has ever been a better time” for tyre recycling. “Circularity is finally a reality for the tyre and rubber industry,” he said, referring to chemical recycling (pyrolysis).

“We have always been the poor relation in the recycling industry – because for a long time there was no circularity, as with metals which can be recycled infinitely. Materials that weren’t necessarily sustainable from a chemical recycling point of view are becoming more and more sustainable thanks to growing demand.”

Major changes in the treatment of end-of-life tyres (ELTs) in the Gulf were reflected during the event in presentations from leading regional recycling businesses.

Abdullah Ahmed Alqurashi, director of business development, Global Environmental Management Services in Saudi Arabia said his country generated 572,000 tonnes of end-of-life tyres every year: 58% from personal vehicles, 15% from light commercial vehicles and 27% from heavy duty vehicles. Most go to landfill or were dumped. The total is expected to reach two million tonnes by 2050.

‘There’s a lack of regulations in SA to have a proper ecosystem for recycling tyre waste,’ he said. ‘To have a fully fleshed solution, we are improving mechanical shredding and investing in pyrolysis plants across the kingdom.’

In the UAE, the Gulf Rubber Company has five facilities for crumbing, granules and other products. A pyrolysis project has been proposed but has yet to be established.

Plant manager Zaid Bdour showed ‘before and after’ aerial photos of a landfill site highlighting the comprehensive removal of millions of tyres over the past decade. Bdour said major challenges in the UAE were the volatility of used tyre prices because of lucrative exports to Pakistan and India and fierce competition with imported tyre products subsidised by the country of origin.

Khaled Jamal Chaaroui, general manager of EPSCO Global General Trading in Kuwait described how his company began recovering tyres from a landfill site in 2016 before shredding and transporting them to its Salmi yard. Seven million tyres were processed in the first six months, he said, and the site was cleared by the end of 2021.

Fifty million tyres are now stored at Salmi. In 2018 construction started on a tyre recycling plant with operations getting underway in 2020 to produce crumbs, granules, powder, steel scrap and fibre waste.

In an overview of the region, Robert Weibold, managing director of the Robert Weibold consultancy in Austria, said annual arisings of ELTs in the Gulf totalled 880,000 tonnes with Saudi Arabia accounting for 65% followed by the UAE on 19%. The UAE is the largest exporter of ELTs at 59,000 – 40% of its arisings.

He said pyrolysis was a breakthrough answer to waste tyres, claiming this type of chemical recycling was reuse rather than recycling because the tyres were broken down into molecular components to be reused into new products.

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