Dear Drive…. What happens to my old tyres when I replace them?

They are one of the most crucial parts of the car, and yet we often take them for granted, but with a need to regularly replace your tyres what happens to the old ones when you do?

Dear Drive… Where we answer reader, viewer and listener questions. Something on your mind? Call in to the radio show or email us at contactus@drive.com.au.


A frequently asked question:

What happens to my old tyres when I replace them, and why does it cost money to dispose of them?

Environmental and sustainability concerns of driving a car extend well beyond the fuel used to power it. As, irrespective of power source, all cars create some form of waste. Here we turn our attention to the crucial rubber that connects your car to the road and look at why using an ethical service to dispose of your old tyres is so important.

What happens to your old tyres?

To be very clear, tyres aren’t very environmentally friendly. They are made up of metal strips, rubber and sometimes even composite materials; none of which ‘degrade’ in a particularly natural fashion. This can lead to negative environmental outcomes and even huge stockpiles of dumped tyres.

The good news is, that old tyres can be recycled with the rubber and other materials converted into gym flooring, roads, pavement, and even fuel.

Recyclers are able to extract the metal elements and convert the rubber into a coal-replacement ‘tyre derived fuel’ (TDF) or use the broken down rubber in remanufacturing processes either locally or overseas.

What’s more, there is continual innovation in this area with groups looking to try and expand the uses of old tyres, and refine the efficiency of the recycling process.


Who is looking after all of this?

In Australia, tyre collection and recycling is conducted by many businesses that are keen to transform a waste product into a saleable commodity. Some of these organisations are accredited through the national Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme (TPSS) which is administered by Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA).

Tyre Stewardship Australia is made up of representatives from all facets of the tyre supply chain, including tyre manufacturers, retailers, automotive brands, and recyclers/collectors, who work together to improve the processes which support a better outcome for end-of-life tyres.

Old tyres, new outcomes. How to give your used tyres a second life?


Is this process expensive?

Recycling tyres require a specialist facility that uses heat, magnetic sorting and even chemical extraction methods to recover the valuable resources from old tyres.

The processes can be quite involved, and as such, it can be more costly to recycle tyres rather than to simply dump them, but it’s a cost worth bearing due to the vastly reduced impact in waste as well as the potential re-use opportunities for the output product.

Given that tyres are designed to withstand years of use, under harsh conditions, it is no surprise that breaking these things down into more disposable and re-usable components is an involved task.

We spoke with Lina Goodman, CEO of Tyre Stewardship Australia, about supporting businesses that take an ethical approach to tyre recycling.

“If you think about it tyres are made to last (thank goodness!), this also means that a sustainable and a long-lasting approach to effective recovery is not free”, said Goodman.

“Cheap tyre recycling needs to be questioned – tyre recovery infrastructure and re-processing the tyres to extract the resources they contain  such as steel, fibres and rubber is a sophisticated process.”


How do I make sure my tyres are recycled?

Tyre Stewardship Australia is funded by brands like Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear Dunlop, Hankook, Kumho, Michelin, Pirelli, and Yokohama, with the purpose to find solutions for used tyres. Leading automotive manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volkswagen have also joined the scheme.

“Used tyres are often illegally dumped, abandoned on vacant land or simply tossed to the kerb”, said Goodman.

“Choosing a tyre retailer that is accredited with Tyre Stewardship Australia tells us that the retailer has committed to use only legitimate and sustainable tyre recyclers/collectors – mitigating against unethical and illegal disposal of used tyres.”

Goodman notes that “an accredited TSA tyre recycler commits to the sustainable management of used tyres. They abide by regulatory requirements and are passionate about finding new and innovative markets for end of life tyres.”

You can check a list of accredited retailers and recyclers at mytyresmychoice.com.au.


Have a question about your next set of wheels or just need some car advice? No query is too big, small or obscure! Call in to the radio show (Trent on 2GB Sydney 1:30pm Monday and 9pm Wednesday, 5AA South Australia 1:30pm Tuesday, and James on 3AW Melbourne 9pm each Thursday), or contact us by email here: contactus@drive.com.au.

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