12 Jul 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

UK urged to overhaul laws on tyre recycling

Britain will be the environmental sick man of Europe if waste regulations are not updated to ensure the correct management and disposal of end-of-life tyres, the UK’s Tyre Recovery Association (TRA) has warned.

The TRA has revealed that legislation passed by the European Union earlier this year paved the way for a tightening of exports of waste materials from member nations of the bloc.

However, the EU’s move has left Britain with the unenviable reputation as the only major European nation legally able to export baled end-of-life tyres to countries like India, the TRA said.

The TRA said the issue will be a key topic for discussion as its annual conference in September — when the association will call for updated national regulations to avert the potential “imminent demise of the UK’S domestic tyre recycling industry”.

End-of-life waste tyres were one of the items specifically referenced in the EU’s updated Waste Shipment Regulation — under which waste cannot be sent to non-OECD countries unless the country concerned is willing to import it. The countries must also demonstrate the environmentally sound management of waste through auditing by independent bodies and monitoring by the European Commission.

‘Shipments’

Figures recently released by India’s Automotive Tyre Manufacturers’ Association showed that India imported around 800,000 tonnes of scrapped tyres between April and November 2023. The UK and EU member nations were the majority contributors, according to the TRA.

“In updating its regulations, the EU recognises that safe and efficient shipments of waste are key for a circular economy.”

Now the TRA and other professional recyclers fear that with waste exports to common destinations in Asia banned, “irresponsible British operators and exporters are the likely receptacles for those negligent European operators looking to dump their product abroad”.

The TRA said it wrote to the government at the end of last February, saying it was time for the UK to acknowledge that “far from tackling this environmental assault, current policies enable some UK operators to facilitate serious environmental harm”.

‘Tighter rules’

Peter Taylor, TRA secretary general, said: “Without the necessary policy update Britain will shortly be the environmental sick man of Europe, home to unscrupulous operators taking malign advantage of the EU’s tighter rules. Britain is set to be the only European nation exporting environmental waste beyond its shores without proper scrutiny or oversight.

“Ministers have been sitting on their hands for too long, this must stop. The steps are simple and inexpensive. Four years ago, this was acknowledged with the commitment to end the T8 exemption, yet still we wait for that legislation.

“Now we see the European Union taking decisive action and, rather than recognising the benefits from aligning with that regulatory approach, our government refuses to engage.”

The TRA said in April that the UK has at least 150,000 tonnes of licensed idle domestic recycling capacity of its own, but the business case for maintaining it was being undermined by “political lethargy”.