The part pyrolysis plays in tyre recycling


Recycling is big news. We all know that there is much being done to encourage consumers and businesses to be more responsible. But what about the wider recycling sector and the way that it can engage with other environmental issues such as energy generation and carbon emissions.

In figures generated by WRAP, there are in excess of 46m waste tyres generated in the UK each year; that is a staggering 440,000 tonnes.

From July 2003 whole tyres were banned from landfill and the same applied to shredded tyres in July 2006. Since then, the problem of what the UK does with its waste tyres continues to be ever present.

Much has been present in the media regarding how tyres are recycled or repurposed in the UK and now with a call by our MP’s to adopt a ‘Scandinavian approach’ to the UKs waste policy the part that tyres play in this has never been more important.

Alex Matthias, our Commercial Manager at IRR Waste 2 Energy, offers his thoughts on how the little-known process of pyrolysis will prove to be pivotal in how the UK deals with waste tyres.

So, we have told you the stats; the question is what are we going to do about it?

The recycling issue in the UK is far from just related to tyres. Domestic households are getting better at kerbside recycling and businesses are gradually changing to more environmentally responsible packaging materials that can be recycled, rather than single use.

But perhaps the wider picture is the one where we as a nation can reap the most benefits recycling challenging waste and generating energy and other valuable by-products from it.

The ‘Scandinavian approach’

When referring to the ‘Scandinavian approach’ a group of MPs are championing the way that waste can be used to generate energy which can heat and power homes and businesses, negating the need for the costly process of shipping waste abroad and carbon intensive landfill processes.

In a new report, No Time to Waste; Resources, Recovery and the road to net-zero – the focus is on ensuring the UK’s annual 27.5m tonnes of ‘residual waste’ becomes part of a strategic low carbon heat and energy plan that harnesses the potential of our waste, not just environmentally but economically too. But what of tyres, and how can we tackle this?

What is pyrolysis and why is it important?

Pyrolysis is a simple process. It is where waste material, typically that which is hard to recycle, is subject to high heats and results typically in a by-product of oil and carbon char, all of which is able to be reused for energy and other industrial processes making the process entirely circular.

It is important because of the way that it has minimal environmental impact when dealing with hard to recycle material, such as end of life tyres, and that it generates valuable commodities rather than further waste.

It is fair to say that there is some misconception surrounding pyrolysis when, in reality, it is a process that can deliver a significant impact on recycling and waste from energy targets.

Simply, it has the potential to enable a business to be able to go ‘offgrid’ reducing emissions, generating further commodities for sale, removing additional spend on fossil fuel generated power and tackling our waste and recycling issues head-on.

The bigger picture

All elements of recycling are important but when it comes down to materials such as ELTs (End of life tyres) a more cohesive, strategic approach is required. And this, is perhaps, where it all comes down to education.

There are huge swathes of people in influential positions that have not heard of, or do not appreciate how pyrolysis can impact so positively in helping the UK, and other countries, deal with end of life tyres. Investment costs in the required technology can, at first glance, prove prohibitive until the full potential of what can be achieved is appreciated.

Whilst the technology is entirely suitable for local authorities to be able to install and reap the benefits, it is also about independent businesses unlocking the potential and tackling many issues in one process.

Investing in the future

Success is all about a visionary approach and embracing this future proofed technology could help to support the UK’s quest to up its recycling game, find new sustainable ways of generating energy and tackle the issue of waste tyres.

What’s not to like about it?