Tyres are made from rubber, steel and textile fibres. The quality of tyres is crucial to traffic safety – and tyre manufacturers thus only use the very best raw materials in their productions.
For decades, tyres were simply left at landfills at the end of their product life – a very unsustainable disposal solution, which is unfortunately still widely used throughout the world. Later, the energy content of end-of-life tyres was recovered through incineration in e.g. cement kilns. This was clearly a step forward in comparison with landfilling, but the good raw materials were destroyed, and only a small fraction of the energy originally invested in the production of a tyre was recovered.
The most sustainable solution is material recycling, where end-of-life tyres are processed into new, high-quality raw materials for the substitution of virgin rubber and steel.
A solution is only truly sustainable if you can document positive impact on the climate; if there are no negative implications for the environment; if there are no health risks related to the use of the recycled materials; and if the quality of the recycled materials is so high that the public and the industry are prepared to use it for substitution of virgin materials.
Tyres are made from scarce resources. In future, the supply of virgin steel will be limited. The production of natural rubber involves deforestation of rain forests, leading to a lack of biological diversity. Rain forests absorb more CO2 than rubber plantations, and when rain forests are deforested in favour of new rubber plantations, less CO2 is thus absorbed from the atmosphere. Material recycling is thus paramount.