Retreads Dilemma Highlights Calls for Unity On Tire Recycling (from Future Tire Conference, 24-25 May in Essen, Germany)

Top figures in the European tire sector have called on the industry to unite in the face of growing pressures to meet EU sustainability objectives, against the background of a rising tide of cheap tire imports.

ETRA leader Valerie Shulman and Jean-Pierre Taberne of ETRMA

ETRA leader Valerie Shulman and Jean-Pierre Taberne of ETRMA

The calls were led by Peter Taylor OBE, founder and secretary general of the UK-based Tyre Recovery Association, who chaired a panel discussion at the tire recycling session at the Future Tire Conference, 24-25 May in Essen, Germany, as reported by European Rubber Journal. At the event, Taylor has urged tire makers, recyclers and other stakeholders to unite around a common set of objectives, towards bringing the industry into line with sustainability requirements of the EU’s circular economy policies.

Peter Taylor called for unity at the conference

Peter Taylor called for unity at the conference

“Is this not the moment to create a manifesto, a set of objectives and demands that we can all work towards and that we think we need?” the widely respected industry veteran has asked a panel comprising also of senior officials from the European Tyre Recyclers Association (ETRA) and European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA) – among other leading figures. During the two-day Future Tire conference, however, several speakers from the recycling sector have cast doubt on the willingness of tire makers to engage with them, particularly when it came to introducing recycled rubber into tire compounds. These allegations have been, in turn, strongly refuted by tire manufacturers at the Essen meeting. The disharmony has spilled over into the panel discussion, where ETRA secretary general Valerie Shulman vigorously scolded Jean-Pierre Taverne, director end-of-life tires at ETRMA, about his group’s non-attendance of the recyclers’ annual conferences. Urging calm and unity, Taylor has said: “We need to be focused… bringing together, perhaps, a group of people and saying ‘this is our sector, this is what we need to develop, and this is what we have to do to ensure its viability.’” Taylor has then continued to say that the need for sustainability was going to take the tire industry in many different directions and that it is important to avoid over-dependence on particular recyclate outlets, such as exports, cement kilns or sports pitches. ETRA’s Shulman has then noted that, as well as the tire manufacturers and recyclers, it was important to consider the end-users of products made with recycled material.

ETRA leader Valerie Shulman and Jean-Pierre Taberne of ETRMA 

ETRA leader Valerie Shulman and Jean-Pierre Taberne of ETRMA

“All three should get together,” said Shulman. “We have been doing this in our conference with the recyclers and the material users for a number of years. It is time, as we move ahead, for all of us to be on the same page.” But the need for unity has been most clearly illustrated by the plight of the truck tire retreading industry, which is currently being undermined by an influx of low-cost tire imports into Europe. The European industry, according to Taylor, needs to try to “make life easier for retreaders, certainly within the context of the circular economy. If we don’t, we won’t have a truck tyre recycling industry.” For the ETRMA, Taverne alleged the tire makers’ association was seeking support for the tire retreading industry at European Commission level: “It is part of the circular economy, because you are extending the use life of the tire. We want also to have cases that are suitable for retreading to be considered, in an EU harmonized way, as products and not as waste.” These views have been resonated in a separate talk by Francesco Gori, strategy advisor at Apollo Tyres and former Pirelli leader, who said that cheap tire imports were “killing the retread industry” by being low-cost and also low quality.

Francesco Gori

Francesco Gori

“On a truck tire, this is a pity because you throw away a lot of value and you cannot utilise the casing on these products because the quality is to poor,” he has told delegates at the Future Tire conference. Another aspect is safety, Gori commenting that because when the truck drivers know tires are going to be replaced by low-cost imports, they are less careful about tire maintenance. And while he had no vested interest in the retreading industry, Gori finished with: “We are destroying jobs in the European retreads industry. There should be a way to finance the industry in Europe. Unless we do something, it is going to die. This is a pity because it is the very first and most important asset of a circular economy concept in the tire industry.” Article and images source: European Rubber Journal

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