Mining’s capability to divert used tyres from landfill to resource recovery requires industry, government, business and communities to collaborate; and Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) offers a way to do just that.
Annual sustainability reports, under the minerals industry’s ENDURING VALUE framework, show mining operators have made significant progress in putting their commitment to sustainable development into practice.
But one area which remains a challenge is waste optimisation, particularly of used off-the-road (OTR) tyres, tracks and conveyor belts.
Less than 15% of the 140,000 tonnes of tyres consumed by the OTR sector each year is recovered. The rest goes to landfill, stockpiles or is buried ‘in pit.’ At 85,000 tonnes, mining has the lion’s share of this consumption volume.
“There’s no doubt that end-of-life OTR tyres pose a big challenge for mines,” says Tyre Stewardship Australia CEO Lina Goodman.
“Recovery of used mining tyres is complex. A large proportion of used OTR tyres are on remote mine locations, many kilometres away from recycling processing plants, most of which are in metro lcations. It is not unexpected, that most mines choose to apply for an EPA license to bury those tyres onsite.
“But we have now reached a tipping point in Australia, and it’s time to work towards making other alternatives viable.”
The tipping point Goodman refers to is the Government’s national waste reduction policy and action plan which mean that 80% of all waste streams are expected to be recycled by 2030, and mines are being called on to identify solutions now
Partnerships with TSA bring the specialist expertise and knowledge of all the players in the circular economy together to put viable solutions on the table
Since its inception in 2013, Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) has been building Australia’s tyre recovery circular economy to ensure the sustainable management, recycling and productive use of end-of-life tyres.
This has required significant research, consultation and the development of partnerships between all circular economy stakeholders, including tyre manufacturers, government from federal to local levels, industry groups, waste recyclers, Indigenous people and local communities.
TSA partnerships have already demonstrated their effectiveness in increasing productive recovery rates from 50% to 90% for tyres in the passenger, bus and truck sector.
“We believe that we can achieve similar results in the OTR sector,” says Goodman. “But it is only when you bring all the players around the same table to share their knowledge and expertise, that challenges can be flipped into viable solutions for everyone.”
Globally, TSA’s partnership with manufacturers has established the foundations for the way forward in Australia.
Through these partnerships, the vast majority of mining tyre importers – including Ascenso, Bearcat, Bridgestone Mining Solutions, Goodyear, Kal Tire, Michelin and Yokohama – now make voluntary contributions to the ACCC-authorised Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme administered by TSA, to fund the research and development of solutions for used tyres.
In WA, NSW and Queensland, TSA partnerships are enabling collaboration between mining operators and supply chain stakeholders to explore solutions and test models such as recovery from regional, rural and remote locations to leveraging value from domestic and international export markets.
In the NT and Queensland, state government, local councils, tyre recyclers, industry groups and Indigenous businesses partner with TSA to research recovery practices and identify areas where improvement can be made.
The volume of used tyres which go to waste on mine sites has the potential to revolutionise Australia’s waste tyre recovery capabilities, not just for OTR tyre users but also for passenger and commercial sectors.
Mining tyres are a strategic priority for increasing the level of tyre recycling – not just for the OTR sector which also includes agriculture, construction and aviation – but also for tyre recovery and waste reduction, across passenger and commercial sectors.
Goodman explains: “Our research confirms that if mining’s volume of used tyres is connected with the other end of the supply chain, we will be able to drive new markets, new processing technology, commercial enterprises and jobs across the country, particularly in regional, rural and remote Australia. This is something we have not seen yet, anywhere else around the world.’
“As such, we see the minerals industry as the biggest catalyst for change when it comes to recovering used tyres in Australia.
“A partnership between a mining operator and TSA, can move OTR tyre resource recovery from the exploration to discovery stage in Australia,” says TSA CEO, Lina Goodman.
“In return, TSA provides access to industry-agnostic specialist knowledge, technology, resources and relationships which the minerals industry needs to fulfil its sustainability goals, such as lowering carbon emission, meeting regulatory requirements and positive outcomes for the communities in which mines operate.
“Any mine operator partnering with us, also gains access to other ESG risk management tools and services such as our Foreign End Market Verification and Sustainable Outcomes Indicator programs.
There is now a $16 million (and growing) market for tyre-derived crumb in Australia
TSA has already funded over $8 million into development of new products and technologies using components recovered from end-of-life tyres.
As a result, there is now a $16 million p.a. (and still growing) market for crumb products and, across Australia, there are 50 major R&D projects, at various stages of completion, to increase our nation’s capability to recover and process rubber waste into new products, such as:
- spray seal
- blast protective concrete
- crumb rubber roads
- permeable pavement
- safety barriers
- liquid fuel.
The tyranny of distance between consumption to recycling, can be flipped into commercial opportunities for regional, rural and remote communities
With this volume of used tyres already on their doorstep, councils and businesses can work with their local mine operators to apply for TSA funding to innovate and find solutions for end-of-life tyres in their community, such as:
- evolving existing waste management processes into sustainable, revenue-generating enterprises that can handle big mining tyres
- finding new domestic markets for rubber waste to offset the loss of revenue from the closure of international markets.
One of those domestic markets is the mining sector itself, which can use products created from the tyres they have to throw out.
If this can be done on a local level, there are huge benefits to be gained ranging from stimulus for local economies to cost and carbon savings and reducing the burden for future generations.