Not so tyred

OECD Observer

Click to enlarge. Source: OECD

A decade ago, used tyres ended up mostly in stockpiles, as an eyesore for landfill. Some 62% of old tyres went that way in 1994. Today, more are recycled for use in adhesives, insulation, brake linings, and conveyor belts, for instance.

Their rubber is also used to pad out children’s play areas. There are now other routes old tyres can take to get back into the economic circuit: retreading and regrooving; reuse for export; and incineration for energy.

In the last decade, because of their high calorific value–a tonne of tyres is equivalent to a tonne of good quality coal or to 0.7 tonnes of fuel oil–used tyres can act as a supplement fuel in pulp and paper mills, industrial boilers, cement kilns and power plants. Depending on the technology used, tyres can represent up to 25% of the total fuel of cement kilns. And tyres-to-energy power plants have been built in Europe and the US.

The market for tyre-derived fuel in the US has exceeded 150 million units for a decade now. Tyre recycling for civil engineering applications grew from half a million tyres in 1990 to 30 million in 2000. For instance, a worn-out tyre may be used in asphalt paving and road construction, which increases pavement life by four to five times. Europe has seen a similar trend. Old rubber tyres have energy left in them after all.

OECD (2006), Improving Recycling Markets, Paris. See

©OECD Observer No 258/259, December 2006

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