Where does the tire sector’s journey to sustainability stand today?
Titled “Journey to Sustainability”, TRAC’s 2023 Rubber Recycling Symposium made its long-awaited return on October 4 and 5 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Held bi-annually since 1994 and originally scheduled for 2020 until COVID-19 said otherwise, attendees, speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors showed up big time, hungry for face-to-face education and engagement in the important issues of the day, such as how can end-of-life (EOL) tires shed the “waste” designation and become recognized as a value-added resource? Twenty-five panellists from Canada, the U.S., Australia, Sweden, and Belgium enthralled the audience with their riveting presentations and lively question-and-answer sessions.
It’s challenging to summarize what we heard inside the two-day program, but here’s my takeaway:
- Whether it be Extended Producer Responsibility or Individual Producer Responsibility approach being used in regional tire recycling schemes, the national diversion rate of 95% clearly proves that these EOL tire management programs across Canada work, but there is always room for improvement.
- During the Global EPR programs session, we learned that Connecticut has conceived an EPR baby and it’s due January 2025, with the success of this program viewed by some as a possible harbinger of things to come across the U.S.
- Tyre Stewardship Australia has a remarkable voluntary scheme to manage EOL tires, although a move to a regulated program is on the horizon and likely to take this program to the next level.
- Larisa Kryachkova from the Tire Industry Project gave us a glimpse into the important work underway regarding tire emissions, EOL tire management and consistent terminology.
- Tracey Norberg from the USTMA provided us with a thorough review of how the 6PPD-Q issue is working its way through California and Washington states, while Alex Van Gelderen from ETRMA provided an excellent overview of the European issues at play, including the sobering date of October 2031 for the phase-out of rubber granules as infill on sports fields.
- Brandon Kuczenski from Scope 3 Consulting shared the good news story that while there is a range in the extent to which different tire-derived products (TDP) deliver ecological benefits, Canadians clearly derive benefits from recycling scrap tires in the TDP that are currently produced with the support of scrap tire management agencies.
- Fredrik Ardefors from SDAB delivered a provocative presentation on how Sweden is moving forward with tire recycling 2.0, an ambitious plan to become the main driver of value creation of tire-derived materials in Europe.
- The panel of tire manufacturers and automaker Rivian shared views on industry topics that reverberate throughout the automotive industry such as what constitutes a sustainable tire; that rigorous innovation mustn’t compromise tire safety and performance; and that all tire manufacturers are competing but also collaborating through their various trade associations.
- The market development panel discussed rubber-modified asphalt (RMA) as a glutted, rather than scarce, commodity; agreed that “used” is a better word than “scrap” or “waste” when it comes to EOL tires; recognized the need to publicize industry failures in order to move forward; and to begin all work in the RMA arena with the end in mind.
- The closing CEO panel offered perspectives on tire recycling markets, opportunities, and challenges from several unique market points of view.
Once again, TRAC’s Rubber Recycling Symposium showed that the tire and rubber industries and recycling systems are leading the way when it comes to understanding and being responsive to environmental imperatives.