18 December 1998

Used tyre pile set to grow and grow, says EA

EVERY year the UK produces 37 million used tyres, reports the Environment Agency.

It calculates this is sufficient not only to fill the whole of the Millennium Dome but also to reach halfway round the world if laid side by side.

Assuming the Millennium Dome option is a non-starter – at least for the year to come – and half the world does not want to spend its days tripping over tyres, there remains the serious problem of tyre disposal.

And it is a problem which is forecast to get worse – the estimate is that the UKs annual tyre consumption could rise to the 60 million mark by the year 2021.

According to the Environment Agency, forthcoming European legislation is likely to ban the disposal of tyres in landfill site. This, it says, will result in an increase in illegal dumping of tyres and with it, a risk of fires, which pollute air, soil and plants.

At Powys in Wales, for example, a tip containing 10m tyres has been burning continuously for nine years.

So if they cant be burnt or buried, what is the answer?

A report from the Agency suggests that manufacturers should develop longer lasting, quieter and more energy efficient tyres. Drivers, it says, should take better care of tyres to increase their life-span, and allow tyre casings to be retreaded. The potential for using worn tyres for energy recovery should also be further exploited.

Only about 27% of UK tyres are used for energy recovery while many other European countries recovered energy from over 70%. Just over 30% are retreaded, 30% are disposed of in landfill sites or stockpiled, with the rest physically reused – weighing down silage clamp sheets on the farm, for example. &#42