Solid Waste & Recycling

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What Goes Around, Comes Around

In Canada used tires end up in one of four places. If there's any tread left, the tire is shipped to the Caribbean or South America for reuse. Or, the tire can be shredded and then integrated back int...


In Canada used tires end up in one of four places. If there’s any tread left, the tire is shipped to the Caribbean or South America for reuse. Or, the tire can be shredded and then integrated back into new products. The tire can be used as an alternative fuel or incinerated. Finally, the tire can be found in a landfill or (sometimes) an illegal dump.

Any tire from Canada with a reasonable tread remaining can be reused in warmer climates for several more years. This practice gives drivers in Central and South America the ability to obtain cheap tires that are still safe in non-winter road conditions.

Tires can be recycled into new products. A tire is made up of vulcanized rubber, steel, and textile (or fabric). Recycling involves the shredding of tires into its components and reusing them the components based on their inherit properties. The vulcanized rub-ber from a tire can be combined with un-vulcanized rubber (typically at a ratio up to 50 per cent) to produce a myriad of rubber products such as mats, truck flaps, and bumbers.

Largest recycler

The largest fully-integrated tire recycler and recycled rubber products manufacturer in North America can be found in Toronto, Ontario. National Rubber Technologies (NRT) has been in business since 1927. Most recently, it expanded its operation into the United States through the acquisition of Koneta Rubber in Ohio.

What separates NRT from its competitors in the tire recycling business is its vertical integration. Tire recycling involves four

steps: collection, grinding, separation, and fabrication into new products. NRT has competitors within each step of the tire recycling business but is the only company that does all four. The company is involved in every aspect of tire recycling — from when a tire is taken off a vehicle for the last time, to shredding, R&D into new products, fabrication of new products, marketing and sales.

NRT is privately owned, with shares split between senior management and a private equity firm. The company has 270 employees in Toronto and 150 people in its recently acquired Ohio facility.

The company’s President and CEO, Greg Bavington, is proud that the company can consider itself part of the green business movement. It’s one of the reasons that attracted him to it. A mechanical engineer by training, Bavington worked at General Motors and Hatch Consultants prior to joining NRT.

Government policy

Some may recall a spate of failures amongst tire recyclers across Canada, especially in Ontario. Even NRT’s recycling division faced the Company’s Creditors Arrangement Act (the Canadian equivalent of Chapter 11 in the U. S.).

One of the reasons for the failure, at least in Ontario, was the elimination of the $5 tire tax charged by the province. When the government rescinded the tire tax, some retailers began to charge a $5 disposal fee. In a free market system the tires went to the lowest cost provider of service, often haulers that would either illegally dispose of them, truck them to landfill, or truck them to the U. S. or Quebec for incineration.

In a free market system, tire recyclers have to compete for supply with incinerators and landfills. Without a government policy that encourages recycling of tires through various means, landfilling and incineration is the result. In the spring, the Ontario government announced a industry-funded program to deal with the 12 million tires generated in the province each year. The program is scheduled to begin in the fall and will be delivered by Ontario Tire Stewardship, a not-for-profit organization incorporated under legislation. The program will see 91 percent of used tires recycled into higher uses and include funding for research into greener ways to recycle tires.

One advantage of the new tire stewardship program over the hated tire tax is that the government will not collect any fees. Fees for the program will be collected by Ontario Tire Stewardship from brand owners, importers and vehicle manufacturers.

Bavington is pleased with the new tire recycling program in Ontario. When the program is implemented, NRT will not have to compete against landfills and incinerators for its feedstock. It’s likely that the company will be able to grow since the company could add up to 30 per cent more tire-derived material to its products. It will also be able to compete effectively with off-shore imports, thereby allowing it to increase its tire recycling production by over 100 percent.

John Nicholson, M. Sc., P. Eng., is a consultant based in Toronto, Ontario. Contact John at john.nicholson@ebccanada.com

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“One advantage of the new tire stewardship program over the hated tire tax is that the government will not collect any fees.”


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