Waste tyres: the big picture

6th September 2012

The Environment Agency (EA) yesterday (September 3rd) released its first Annual Waste Crime Report, highlighting the impact illegal waste has on the environment, communities and businesses.

It's not everyday we see discarded tyres piling up in the UK, but the EA found tyre waste accounted for 16 per cent of the illegal dumping it dealt with between April 2011 and March 2012.

Even more significant was the presence of end-of-life vehicles and vehicle parts in illegal waste sites at the end of that period, which at 22 per cent accounts for nearly a quarter of waste in this category.

Costing the taxpayer £17.4 million over 2011-2012, waste crime takes up six per cent of the EA's total spend on environmental protection, with a further £4.9 million pledged for addressing illegal waste sites in England and Wales over the next year and a half – hardly small potatoes in the context of a global recession.

However, the Annual Waste Crime Report was also positive in its outlook, revealing that the number of people sent to jail for waste crimes almost trebled in the last three years, with 335 individuals and companies successfully prosecuted in 2011 alone.

Of the 16 individuals sent down for major waste crimes last year, Carl Steele was top of the bill. Dubbed the 'million tyre man', Steele dumped over 800,000 used tyres across England over a 15 month spree, damaging natural sites and undercutting legitimate tyre recycling businesses.

Two siblings who started an enormous tyre fire which led to the evacuation of 72 households were also banged up.

“Waste crime can cause pollution, pose risks to people’s health and undercut legitimate businesses. We’ve stepped up the fight and we are increasingly seeing waste offenders being made to pay for their crimes," said Andrew Higham, head of the EA's National Environmental Crime Team.

The body has also called on businesses to do their part by reporting suspected waste crimes and going through official channels to avoid unwittingly financing criminal operations based around the illegal handling and disposal of waste.

With the UK's annual haul of 55 million discarded tyres identified as one of the most problematic waste streams by the Environment Agency, how can individuals and businesses alike best dispose of their old rubber?

First, a quick bit of background – since July 2006 it's been imperative that the UK recycles or re-uses virtually all end-of-life tyres under the EU's Landfill Directive.

In 2011, just over 30 per cent of waste tyres were made into crumb (granulated rubber), 18 per cent were used for energy recovery and 16 per cent were used in landfill engineering. Interestingly, twenty per cent were re-used, begging the question of whether people are disposing of their tyres too early on in their lifespan. 

When you contact a tyre recycling firm, ensure they are legitimate. It takes between 60 and 80 pence to legally dispose of each tyre, so if the price you're quoted seems too good to be true, the EA recommends you quiz the contractor.

It could also be worthwhile ensuring they're a member of the Tyre Industry Federation's Responsible Recycler scheme. This was set up in 1999 and guarantees that registered companies will dispose of tyres via environmentally friendly and acceptable methods, complying with Duty of Care requirements as well as being eco-conscious. Scheme members receive annual audits to ensure their approach to tyre disposal meets stringent standards.

More generally, firms are directed to the EA's Waste Directory, where they can find licensed recycling and waste disposal sites to suit their needs in their area.

Seeking tyre help and advice? Look no further than ATS Euromaster.

Posted by Danielle Barge