A recent fire at a waste management facility in South Australia serves as an urgent warning about the growing issue of end-of-life tyre management, said the Motor Trades Association of Queensland (MTA Queensland).
The blaze at Lincoln Gap, about 26km south-west of Port Augusta on the upper Eyre Peninsula, ripped through tyres and other potentially hazardous materials in 15-metre-high tanks and sent up large amounts of smoke and fumes.
Crime scene investigators deemed the February 23 fire suspicious, but MTA Queensland said the incident also highlights the need for governments to take action following the decision to ban the exportation of whole-baled tyres in 2021.
MTA Queensland said Australia is the first country to ban the practice and the automotive industry has been left to deal with the estimated 26 million tyres that are sent to waste each year.
“Unfortunately, multiple occurrences of used tyre stockpiles catching fire have been witnessed across Australia in recent years,” said MTA Queensland in a media release.
“With severe weather events now regularly impacting across the country, combined with the rapidly growing number of used tyres lying idle in waste management centres, the Motor Trades Association of Queensland is urging Australian governments to invest in the technology that safely and responsibly recycles end of life tyres.”
MTA Queensland CEO Rod Camm said that since the ban came into effect, tyre piles are growing rapidly, as is the price for collecting and storage of the tyres.
“Prices have grown by 140 per cent since the ban,” added Camm.
“As a result, we are commonly seeing businesses having to store large numbers of these materials on-site for months at a time before they can be removed and taken to various stockpiles, leaving an eyesore and incredibly hazardous situation left largely unattended.
“And while legislation was introduced at the federal level to abolish exportation, the issue of dealing with the fall-out and ensuring the safety of local communities has been left to the respective state governments.”
He said one solution is being offered by Green Distillation Technologies (GDT) which has developed a technology that converts end-of-life tyres into sellable commodities including carbon, oil, and steel using a heat-based process that produces no emissions.
“The work of GDT is the first of its kind in Australia and has the potential to change how we view tyres as a recyclable commodity,” said Camm.
“Using nothing but destructive distillation, GDT can turn tyres stripped from old cars – whether that be a light commercial vehicle or a truck – into valuable oil, steel, and carbon that can be on-sold as raw materials.”