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EuRIC spotlights the circular economy of tire recovery

The recent meeting in Brussels of the European Confederation of Recycling Industries (EuRIC), attended by more than 100 members, was a particularly important moment as it was its first conference dedicated to tire recycling from a full circular economy perspective.

The meeting thus marked an important meeting point for the entire community engaged in tire recycling, providing a platform to share knowledge, experience and best practices. The active involvement of participants demonstrated the growing awareness of the importance of proper management of used tires and the urgency of adopting sustainable solutions.

Tire recycling: a contribution to Europe's strategic autonomy

The conference was opened by the speeches of Poul Steen Rasmussen, president of EuRIC Mechanical Tyre Recycling (MTR) and CEO of Genan Group, who emphasized how tire recycling is an excellent solution, as it saves critical resources that Europe would otherwise import, thus contributing to its strategic autonomy.

Recycling also contributes to a significant reduction in the carbon and energy footprint and supports the entire EU toward the ambitious goal of "Carbon Neutrality" in terms of carbon emissions: it is therefore clear that EU policy should do more to support and boost tire recycling.

The Green Deal has set ambitious targets, and the contribution of everyone in the tire supply chain will be essential to their achievement.

The key role of legislation in encouraging the use of recycled rubber

Regulations certainly need to be in place, but it is still necessary to leave room for pragmatism by allowing the use of materials from tire recycling to increase in many different applications, including the production of new tires.

It is clear here that both policy makers and industry are called upon to contribute: rubber is a special material and therefore requires an ad hoc approach.

One possible avenue seems to be the idea of upstream regulation of mandatory minimum recycled content within new rubber items, including tires: this could be a viable avenue, as long as performance is clearly preserved.

Emmanuel Katrakis, general secretary of EuRIC:

The European tire recycling industry needs some regulatory signals, including market access through end-of-life waste criteria and improved recyclability characteristics that do not compromise tire safety. The tire recycling industry is united in its support that tires should be a priority under the Ecodesign Regulation for Sustainable Products (ESPR)

The Reach Commission's decision on rubber infill: how to turn it into an opportunity

Next, one of the main topics discussed was the EU's investigated ban on rubber infill in synthetic turf playing fields (we talked about it in this article):

Hélène Duguy, from Client Earth, presented the NGO approach, which is based on a total ban, as also proposed by the European Commission.

Next, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Garcia, from the Instituto de Biomecanica in Valencia, and Reinhold Schultz, spokesperson for the Silkeborgbanen project, spoke about the implementation of Risk Management Measures and how proper implementation has proven their effectiveness with an estimated annual release of microplastics being below the limit suggested by ECHA.

The common conclusion was that the best way forward is to require the use of strict RMMs that prevent the release of microplastics immediately, rather than an a priori ban on their use: what is needed is an approach that aims at a real understanding of the issue and the development of a criterion that minimizes the risk rather than a total denial that could have major impacts.

The alternative uses of recycled rubber

While it is true that today, use as infill is one of the main uses (between 40 and 50 percent by volume) of tire dust from end-of-life tires, Roberto De Simone, CSO of Rubber Conversion, however, shifts the focus to other alternative uses:

Techniques such as pyrolysis and devulcanization represent viable technologies for ELT recovery and valorization, and perhaps the true answer to the pressing need for carbon footprint reduction, but these, to be viable avenues in an optimal way, require a better balance between restrictions on chemical use and the widespread need for circular economy
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