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What Happens to Old Tyres After They Are Discarded?

What Happens to Old Tyres After They Are Discarded?

Over the years, many environment-friendly and non-friendly techniques have been developed to dispose of or recycle used tyres.

Wonder what happens to your vehicle’s tyres after you throw them? I think most of us don’t care about that as when we look at a cool car or bike, we only remember its colour and accessories and hardly pay attention to the tyres. The attention towards tyres only comes when they are not performing, such as when they get punctured.

Tyres are one of the classic examples of high-volume products manufactured every year and derived from non-renewable petroleum resources, which means they are designed for single-use, and typically do not fit the standard of reuse and recycling. On average, more than 1 billion tyres are produced annually, and an equal number of them are discarded and reduced to waste. India is rapidly contributing to this waste. So, what happens to discarded tyres? Read on …


Why Disposing Of Tyres Is A Challenging Task?

First, we must get to know the life cycle of a tyre. Tyre production is a complex process. Firstly, the material is extracted, the most common being natural rubber, coming from particular trees grown for producing this raw material. Secondly, this gathered material is processed and then, manufactured using various structural reinforcing elements, including chemical additives and metals such as steel.

The next phase is the usage of tyres, which are fitted in passenger cars, commercial vehicles, aeroplanes and several other vehicles. Now comes the most crucial stage of its life i.e. discarding and recycling. Let’s elaborate on this further in the below points.


Tyres Do Not Biodegrade

As mentioned earlier, tyres are manufactured using non-renewable or non-biodegradable material and hence, do not biodegrade like humans, animals, wood, paper, etc. They are also highly durable and can pile up and consume a lot of space in landfills. So, this option of dumping them has always raised a question mark for decades.

However, in recent times, manufacturers are finding more uses for scrap tyres such as in construction, retaining walls, creating highway barriers and lightweight building materials in urban transport infrastructure projects. Companies are working on creating biodegradable prototypes and sustainable tyres using materials like sand-based silica and carbon black.


Tyres Are A Fire Risk

Tyres Are A Fire Risk

For destroying anything, perhaps the easiest way is to burn them. But this idea is not good for tyres, as they can keep burning for long, days, weeks or, sometimes months. This phenomenon creates a toxic atmosphere of thick black smoke, which is dangerous for the environment and health. Some rubber scrap dealers burn the tyres to extract metal from them. Waste tyres can also be burned to produce energy directly, but it remains a question of whether it is environmentally friendly or not.


Tyre Recycling

Tyre Recycling

In the recycling process, many tyres are first shredded and then recycled. Once tyres are shredded, they can be used to build anything from pavements, firing cement kilns and even creating running tracks. Some people have come up with creative ideas such as building speaker mounts, chairs, light shades, and beautiful sculptures.

India shares 6 per cent of the global 1.5 billion waste tyres, and to some, it can be shocking that India imports three lakh tonnes of tyres for recycling. They are used to produce industrial oil and various other derivatives after treating them thermochemically at high temperatures. Due to this, pollution remains a big concern.

Also Read –  Here’s Why Buying Used Tyres Is A Bad Idea


What Has Been Done To Address Waste Tyre Management In India?

What Has Been Done To Address Waste Tyre Management In India

Globally, India is the third-largest producer and fourth-largest consumer of natural rubber. So, one can assume how critical the situation of tyre waste is in the country. Though various policies have been created in the past, hardly anything has come out of them so far.

Recently, the central government has proposed a draft to regulate the disposal of waste tyres by enforcing a new policy called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). The draft got published on Dec 31, 2021. This policy means the responsibility of the tyre producer or importer extends beyond selling the tyres to consumers, as they have to dispose of the products from their end.

This notification from the government also says that tyre producers and importers will have to guarantee that all their products get recycled in line with stipulated government standards. They will have to comply with this policy before the end of 2024.

Besides, every day thousands of tyres in India are sent to recycling plants where they undergo an extraction process called pyrolysis, out of which usable products are made, such as steel, fuel oil, etc. Some companies are taking initiatives to transfer used tyres to pyrolysis plants across India. It is one of the positive visions toward a sustainable environment.

Also Read – What Is A Tyre Blowout & How To Avoid It?

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