Tires are made from rubber, steel and textile fibers. The quality of tires is crucial to traffic safety – and tire manufacturers thus only use the very best raw materials in their productions.
For decades, tires were simply left at landfills at the end of their product life – a very unsustainable disposal solution, which is unfortunately still widely used throughout the world. Later, the energy content of end-of-life tires was recovered through incineration in e.g. cement kilns. This was clearly a step forward in comparison with landfilling, but the good raw materials were destroyed, and only a small fraction of the energy originally invested in the production of a tire was recovered.
The most sustainable solution is material recycling, where end-of-life tires are processed into new, high-quality raw materials for the substitution of virgin rubber and steel.
A solution is only truly sustainable if it meets the following requirements: Can the positive impact on the climate be documented? Are there any negative implications for the environment? Are there any health risks related to the use of the recycled materials? Is the quality of the recycled materials high enough that the public and industry are prepared to use it for substitution of virgin materials?
Tires are made from scarce resources. In future, the supply of virgin steel will be limited. The production of natural rubber involves deforestation of rain forests, leading to a lack of biological diversity. Rain forests absorb more CO2 than rubber plantations, and when rain forests are deforested in favor of new rubber plantations, less CO2 is thus absorbed from the atmosphere. Material recycling is thus paramount.