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Byron Shire
July 15, 2024

Dumped tyres a growing problem

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The 10 per cent of tyres not accounted for is causing a lot of trouble. Photo supplied.

Australia on average generates over 450,000 tonnes of used tyres annually, and after the end of lockdowns this figure is growing. Some estimate 500,000 tonnes of used tyres were generated in 2021-22.

Not all these tyres are recycled, and off-road tyres are a particular problem. National used tyre recovery rates have stalled at under 70 per cent, falling to 64 per cent in 2021-22, the lowest level in years. Persistently low recovery of off-the-road (OTR) tyres is a major contributor to Australia’s stalling recovery rate, with little evidence to suggest this is going to change anytime soon.

90 per cent of passenger, bus and truck tyres recovered

Australia can be proud of the close to 90 per cent of passenger, bus and truck tyres the nation recovers, but reducing the remaining 10 per cent gap is critical to achieving national waste reduction goals, reducing carbon emissions and deterring tyre eco-hazards in the future.

Data shows that unrecovered tyres (around 5.7 million unrecovered passenger tyres alone) pose an unacceptable eco-hazard and, until we eliminate illegal dumping, stockpiling and rogue waste operators, we run the risk of going backwards.

Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) CEO Lina Goodman, says there’s a misguided and, arguably, dangerous belief, ‘that we have done enough in the recovery of passenger, bus and truck tyres. That the job is done. That there is nothing to see here, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.’

Snap Send Solve

‘Data provided by Snap Send Solve shows that, on any given day, there are at least eight reports of tyres dumped on the side of the road, in a creek, or the bush around Australia, with local government and communities bearing the brunt of costs and risks.

‘We’re not talking about bottles and aluminium cans that are easy to put in a wheelie bin, transport, and process. Tyres, like mattresses, are another logistics ball game altogether.’

TSA reports that the reality for local councils and communities is that 10 per cent of passenger, bus and truck tyres unrecovered equates to 5.7 million passenger tyres not being collected each year.

This is greater than the population of Queensland and the cost is shouldered by ratepayers, as local councils are left with precarious and costly clean-ups of illegally dumped tyres and the ongoing risk of dangerous fires.

Dumped tyres take up time and money

The TSA says that dumped tyres are taking up more time and more money for councils to deal with. Time and money used to clean up tyres is taken away from other ratepayer services – like road and facility maintenance – to deal with tyres dumped by cowboy operators who are profiting at the cost of the  environment and future progress.

Ms Goodman says that while we are being notified by councils and landowners across the nation of an increase in dumped tyres, it is councils in regional, rural and remote Australia that are disproportionately exposed to the excessive strain of managing dumped tyres. ‘These are the same communities that bear the brunt of environmental forces – such as drought and fire – and can ill-afford council resources being diverted from local services. It really isn’t a fair go.’

How do we tackle the 10%? 

What’s left to do? Ms Goodman, says we need to face reality – to listen to and look at what the data is telling us. 

Snap Send Solve is a useful tool for communities to let their councils know the reality of the problem at a local level.

Managing Director, Danny Gorog says dumped tyres have a tendency to ‘multiply’ if left unattended for too long; and a quick ‘snap’ can be the easiest first step to preventing this environmental issue getting bigger.

‘We have over 530 councils connected to the application to receive reports on local issues, and we’re working hard to connect over 400,000 “snappers” to provide real-time alerts of illegally dumped tyres.’

‘We need to learn from those that have dealt with the problem.

A problem not isolated to Australia

‘This is a problem not isolated to Australia, the cost of dumped tyres is well documented.

‘Progressive countries that have dealt with this problem have one thing in common – a regulated scheme and supportive policies.’

Ms Goodman says that an ‘all-in’ structure, rather than the existing ‘opt-in’ structure, for the national tyre scheme would prevent the industry from discharging its responsibilities to manage used tyres on to local councils and communities. Globally ‘all-in’ tyre schemes with regulatory support increase the capability and sustainable value across the industry for all stakeholders.

All in scheme

‘We’ve learnt that “all-in” schemes around the world succeed in driving a circular economy for tyres.

‘The opt-in and opt-out approach of Australia’s current tyre scheme has only been able to go so far, and it’s not far enough.

‘An all-in scheme means a fair go for everyone, which is good news for local government and regional, rural, and remote Australians, who currently bear the brunt of illegal dumping and stockpiling.

Ms Goodman says the story gets even better for those communities where there is around 130,000 tonnes of mining, agriculture and other off-the-road tyres being buried in pit each year. 

‘An all-in scheme would see these mining and agriculture used tyres create the opportunity for local economic growth, increased manufacturing, and ultimately regional jobs.’

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  1. EVs wear tires faster. Importing 500,000 new drivers a year increases total tires used. Recycling tires generates CO2.


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