One of the many benefits of cycling is that it is good for the environment. We don’t burn fossil fuels and we don’t clog up the roads creating traffic jams but we do create waste.
Disposing of used tyres is the one blemish on the green credentials of cycling. What happens to your tyres once you replace them? When we approached some of the bigger bike retailers and asked them what they did we were met with “I’m not really sure.” This doesn’t sound like a recyling policy to me. That said, there are many issues facing retailers and cyclists when it comes to end-of-life tyres.
In 2006 the European Landfill Directive stated that tyres could no longer be sent to landfill. This of course was referring to car, bus and lorry tyres rather than bicycle tyres. But with many of the same chemicals and compounds used in both types, the environmental impacts in their disposal are the same. Not only is there the risk of chemicals leaching into the groundwater but also the risk of fire. Tyre fires are notoriously hard to extinguish and can be extremely noxious. A fire in Heyope, Wales started burning in 1989 and it burnt for 15 years before it was finally extinguished.
What can you do with your old tyres?
There are plenty of options when it comes to responsibly disposing of your old tyres. From cottage industries like Velo-re to the more industrial scale recycling projects you can make sure that your old tyres are disposed of appropriately. Some bike shops in London are already running recycling schemes and there are moves afoot to create a London wide network.
Velorution in Central London have been recycling all their old tyres for a while but, with the high costs involved, for many other independent bike shops it simply does not make economic sense. This is why they are trying to create a London Bicycle Store Recycling Network.
They hope to sign up as many shops as they can to reduce the costs involved as well as getting endorsement from green initiatives to help with the credibility of the network. So encourage your local bike shop to sign up today by emailing [email protected]
How much does it cost to recycle a tyre and who should pay?
Currently most waste management companies are quoting between 50p-70p per tyre with a minimum cost of around £20 per collection. And it is this cost that puts many shops off recycling. But with multiple uses for the waste rubber there is absolutely no reason to send the tyres to landfill. So who should pay for the recycling? For motor vehicles there are three methods currently used to ensure the EU Landfill Directive is adhered to. The one that seems to be the most effective is Producer Responsibility.
This puts the responsibility of the end-of-life tyres on the company that produces them. But compared to car tyres, bicycle tyres do not yield as much re-usable material and are not as suitable for re-treading. So the added costs of producer responsibility is unlikely to be welcomed by the manufacturers.
So why not us, the consumer? When purchasing new tyres for your bike would you mind paying a £1 levy so you ensure that your old tyres are not ending up in landfill?
We think a levy when purchasing new tyres or contributing to the disposal of old ones is the fairest system. That said, if the London Bike Store Recycling Network could become established it would provide excellent economies of scale that would, in turn, reduce the cost per unit. If this cost could be lowered enough then waste management companies might be able to collect the tyres at no cost to retailers like they do with other bike parts such as inner tubes and scrap metal.
So the next time you go into your bike shop, find out if they are part of the Recycling Network. If we can get more shops to sign up to the network we will be able to make a huge difference to the percentage of tyres that get recycled. It is 100% for cars and it should be the same for bikes.