New Zealand tyre recovery and recycling remain a problem poorly handled by the government with critics claiming that money has been wasted on ill-thought-out projects.
Calls for Accountability for Government’s $20 Million Worth of Tyre Disposal Grants
New Zealand is still failing to get to grips with tyre recycling. Despite funding for recycling, the country still sends two-thirds of its 5 million per year tyre arisings to landfill, or are not accounted for.
New Zealand’s government has awarded over $20NZ to recycling schemes over the past ten years, but critics claim that change is too slow to be effective.
Tyrewise was set up in 2011 to find a way of dealing with old tyres. Its report, which was presented to then-Minister for the Environment Nick Smith in August 2013, recommended a product stewardship scheme, which would build the cost of disposal into the purchase price of tyres, disincentivising dumping or stockpiling. The scheme has still not been realised.
Tyrewise was one of four projects to receive a share of $718,000 from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) before 2015. A pyrolysis project, which burned rubber in kilns to make fuel, and another recycling programme both ended in the companies involved going into liquidation.
KPMG was awarded $100,000 of the funding to research economic barriers to tyre recycling in New Zealand. It found three key barriers: limited markets for recycled tyre products, insufficient funding, and a lack of scale. The first two are the same issues found around the world, and the third is perhaps not as clear as might be expected – lower volume recycling/ recovery works in many areas. Essentially, KPMG was paid $1000NZ to state the obvious.
The Waste Minimisation Fund began targeting projects that would help solve New Zealand’s used tyre problem and issued $18.7 million to nine projects in 2015.
Fletcher Concrete and Infrastructure Ltd (Golden Bay Cement) received $13.6m so its cement kiln could use end-of-life tyres in concrete manufacture. General manager Paul Thorn said the company expected to start processing tyres after new equipment is installed in September.
Waste Management New Zealand received $3.85m to set up a nationwide collection and processing operation and planned to handle 42,000 tonnes of tyres each year eventually. The company courted controversy when trucks were seen sending tyres to landfill in 2018 before the Wiri recycling plant opened.
The latest grant, $79,625 to 3R Group Ltd‘s Tyrewise initiative to investigate mandatory product stewardship, was awarded in 2018. 3R Group chief executive Adele Rose said the industry had been working on the issue for several years.
It was a shame four years of work had ended with Smith declining to act on the group’s recommendations because he did not consider tyres to be an environmental problem, she said.
“End-of-life tyres are a significant environmental problem, and represent a huge potential resource that is lost when they are dumped or put in landfill.”
Despite the delays, Rose hoped the end was now in sight, “We are now in the very final stages of public consultation on the latest stewardship scheme – that will then form a recommendation to the minister.”
Accountability Action solid waste advisor Bruce Gledhill said waste disposers paid levies on every tonne they processed because they believed the Government was using the money to find solutions.
“Our country should own something [like a working tyre recycling scheme] as a result of the grant process. Here we gave people money, and it vaporised.”
A MfE spokesperson said work was progressing on ways to better deal with harmful products like tyres, electronics and batteries. The ministry was also creating a national environment standard for outdoor storage of tyres.
Source: Stuff NZ