The announcement of a voluntary Australian tyre recycling scheme is a significant victory for those members of the industry who have worked for many years to make tyre retailing more sustainable.
That is the opinion of Toyo Tyre & Rubber Australia, which has welcomed the launch of the Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) scheme.
Federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt announced details of the scheme earlier this week.
Toyo is one of several prominent tyre brands – representing about 60 per cent of the volume of the Australian tyre market – supporting the TSA scheme.
Toyo Tyre & Rubber Australia's chief executive officer Michael Rudd said the new scheme was a great response to an issue that was increasingly attracting the attention of governments and the public.
"At Toyo, we believe the creation of sustainable industry practices relating to the environment is a top priority, Mr Rudd said.
"Although advanced fuel-efficient tyre technology already makes a substantial contribution, we also have a responsibility to ensure we find the best possible disposal solution for these tyres once they reach the end of their useful life."
TSA estimates approximately 48.5 million tyres reach the end of their life in Australia each year, but only 16 per cent of those are recycled.
This compares with recycling rates of 43 per cent in Europe and 32 per cent in the US.
At present, most old tyres are land-filled, stockpiled, exported or illegally dumped. This poses serious health and environmental risks.
The new industry initiative aims to increase domestic tyre recycling, support new technologies, expand the market for tyre-derived products and reduce the number of end-of-life tyres ending up in landfill or illegal dumps.
Tyres are a valuable commodity with great potential to be utilised at end of life in a range of applications. Recycled tyres can be used to make new rubber products, in roads and pavements, and in sporting fields and playgrounds.
Old tyres can also be used as an alternative fuel source for producers of energy and cement.
Stakeholders across the tyre supply chain, including tyre and vehicle importers, retailers, fleet operators, local governments, collectors, recyclers and the mining industry will participate in the new scheme.
Major type importers Continental, Goodyear Dunlop, Michelin, Pirelli, Toyo and Yokohama have provided the initial funding to get the scheme started.
As part of this major new agreement, participants in the scheme will commit to only working with others who support environmentally sound end of life management of tyres. These commitments will be supported by an audit program and education products about best practice will be developed.
The scheme will also support new technology and ways to develop stronger domestic markets for tyre derived products to strengthen the demand for local tyre recycling.
Toyo is hopeful that once the TSA scheme is successfully operational, tyre brands not currently involved will lend their support.
"We believe that the sustainable disposal of used tyres can be achieved without imposing an onerous cost burden on the trade or consumers," Mr Rudd said.
The tyre industry has established a company called Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) to administer the new scheme, to be chaired by Mr Gerry Morvell.
The work of Tyre Stewardship Australia will complement important efforts of state and territory governments who are working to ensure that those who handle and dispose of tyres are doing so responsibly and in accordance with the law.