Recycling & Recovery

There are many ways of putting used tyres to good use, although broadly all of these can be defined as either reuse, recycling or recovery.


The term reuse covers all those tyres which are ultimately returned to their originally intended use on the road and applies to both part-worn tyres, where tyres with useful life remaining can be refitted to vehicles, and retreaded tyres.

Retreading is considered to be one of the most preferable and effective methods of re-using worn tyres since the process effectively doubles the life of a tyre, reducing the numbers of new tyres needed and thereby minimising waste. The Used Tyre Working Group is keen to promote the increased use of retreaded tyres and to help dispel the thoroughly undeserved poor image that still affects the retreading industry. Do consider the environmental benefits of retreaded tyres. More motorists using retreaded tyres would help reduce the numbers of used tyres while better utilising finite natural resources such as oil. A list of retreading companies can be found on the Retread Manufacturers Association website.

Worn tyres are also used in their original form for non vehicle purposes. Examples include the use of tyres as playground swings, silage clamps and dock fenders. These tyres will, in due course, be returned to the waste stream for subsequent treatment.

One of the most straightforward applications for tyres, without the need for expensive processing, is their use in engineering projects such as leachate drainage layers in landfill sites as well as in motorway embankments and various marine applications. While these tyres are frequently used whole, the permanency of the application sets it apart from temporary reuse, and such tyres would not reasonably be expected to re-enter the waste stream.

Recycling & Recovery

Used tyres can also be processed into rubber shred and crumb. There are a variety of uses for this secondary material, including its use for equestrian, sports and safety surfaces as well as carpet underlay. The finer grades of crumb are incorporated into underbonnet rubbers on vehicles and a number of tyre manufacturers are examining the scope to use a percentage of the material in the manufacture of new tyres. It can also be used for road surfaces although a pilot project in the UK for the use of rubberised asphalt on roads continues to be evaluated. Tyre shredding and granulation processing capacity in the UK continues to grow.

There are also innovative processes such as pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is the thermal degradation of a material in the absence of oxygen which in the case of tyres generates gas, oil, carbon char and steel. A proportion of the resultant gas and oil can be used to fuel the process.

Used tyres can beneficially replace some of the fossil fuels traditionally used in the cement making process. Doing this produces environmental benefits, reducing the overall environmental impact of cement works, and commercial benefits helping reduce the high energy bills involved in cement making. Four kilns in the UK have received full authorisation to burn tyres with a combined capacity of over 100,000 tonnes. Other kilns are actively pursuing the use of tyres as fuel. Gasification of tyres for electricity generation is a further option with plans in place for a plant with a capacity of 65,000 tyres a year in the West Midlands, although construction has not yet started.

How Can the Public Help?

As a vehicle owner or user, each member of the general public has a small but important part to play in this issue. Firstly, treat your tyres properly so that you get the benefit of maximum tyre life. This can be easily achieved by simple maintenance and correct inflation pressures, saving you money and ensuring you don’t need to replace them prematurely. When the time does come to change your tyres consider the environmental aspects of their replacements. Why not consider a retreaded tyre. A second hand or part worn tyre may not represent good value for money in simple terms or in terms of life expectancy.

Responsible disposal is an increasingly expensive business involving sorting, storage, collection and disposal costs. Many tyre retailers are now asking customers to make a contribution to help meet the requirement of 100% environmentally acceptable tyre disposal. If applied, this small voluntary charge will appear on your invoice and can be discussed with the manager of the retail centre supplying your tyres.

We are in the process of setting up a used tyre recycling plant in South Wales, UK. We plan to collect used car tyres and then to shred them into crumbs and granulate for recycling. If anyone is interested in either having their tyres taken away or in buying rubber crumb or rubber granulate please contact me.

I am inviting comments from people in waste management about the current state of UK legislation regarding the reuse of waste tyres for other purposes.
From: Jonathan Priddey Reply

Will the landfilling of catapillar tracks for site machinery be subject to the same resrictions as regular tyre? If yes, is there a company who is able to recycle them?
From: John Matthews Reply

I am looking for a scottish company (if possible) to supply up to 70 tonnes of rubber chippings for an outdoor exercise arena for my horses. Chippings need to be betwen 10 – 25 mm. Can anyone help provide a name and address?
From: Lyn Lewis Reply

Is there a company out there who have a waste tyre collection in Cornwall
From: Sarah Reply

Can anybody tell me where I can find information on what is classed as a ‘Shredded Tyre’? And any ne EU laws coming into place.
From: Adam Reply

How does an Education and Training establishment dispose of their tyres legally, whilst conforming to BS 14001.
From: Alex McGowan Reply

I am looking for a company that makes walls out of old tyres by wiring them together. Making wall sections suitable to make a sugar beet clamp on a farm.
From: Ian Johnson Reply

What is the commercially viable specification of carbon black and tire pyrolysis oil?
From: Chandra Mohan Reply

I am about to start up a go-karting business in scotland, can i use old tyres on my circuit and do i have to pay for them if they going to be recycled anyway?
From: Brian Wilson Reply

I have found a way to make a usefull product out of used tyres . Why no one has done this before has suprissed me. Has the potential to get rid of all tyres.I have submitted a provisional patent in Australia to cover this Idea. Looking for Seed Capital.
From: Steve Rathbone Reply

I live in the Stockport area near to a franchised garage which regularly store used tyres about 20,at the rear of their premises which is the road on which I live. The tyres are in the open insecured a few feet from the pavement.It has become the custom of local youths at weekend to re distribute them around the street.Are the garage in breach of these regulations
From: Ian Hinsley Reply

We have around 1500 tyres to dispose of in the Shrewsbury area. We would like to do it responsibly but are a non-profit making club. Can anyone advise the sort of costs that would be involved.
From: Carla Stubbings Reply

After recently closing a quad bike track I have several hundred tyres to dispose of. I’m looking for advice on what is the best way to do this and the cheapest,or companies that wiil come and collect them free of charge for recycling

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