Recycling used tyres: how does it work?

With 55 million waste tyres produced each year in the UK alone, tyre recycling represents an important environmental challenge. In this guide, we look at what is being done to ensure that used tyres are correctly disposed of, and some of the ways in which they are being given a second life.

Find out more about how tyres are recycled.

According to the law, all waste tyres must now be re-used in some way. © rezulteo

Waste tyres: what does the law say?

Mainly composed of rubber, steel and textiles, tyres are not generally classed as hazardous waste. However, they can pose a health and environmental risk in the case of a fire. This explains why it is against the law to dump or burn waste tyres in open areas, and following an EU directive in 2006, it is now also illegal to dispose of them in landfill sites. 

The UK produces around 55 million waste tyres a year. According to UK law, generators of waste tyres, such as garages, have a duty of care to dispose of them correctly, using registered waste carriers. The Environment Agency can also service stop notices to prevent illegal tyre activities such as dumping.

How does tyre recycling work?

The tyre recycling process begins at the distributor’s site, where tyres are stored in specially-designed skips. The tyres are then collected by waste carriers who transport them to treatment sites to be sorted. Tyres deemed reusable are then re-moulded, and sold second-hand as re-treads. Tyres that cannot be used again are shredded, more or less finely, until granulate is obtained and then sent to different recovery companies.

What are recycled tyres used for?

Waste tyres can be reused in a number of ways, including:

  • Fuel for cement kilns
  • Construction of landfill sites and flood defences
  • Rubber products such as flooring, road surfaces, furniture and shoes

For more information about waste tyre management, check out the UK government site

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