The Impact Of Tyres Across The Globe

Thursday, July 19, 2018

This last week (May) I was attending an international tyre exhibition where visitors from around the globe gathered to all talk all things on tyres (or tires as some of you may suggest). I refer to the round black things as tyres; I am thinking about retirement, not sure that I can be 'retyred'!

It was not surprising to me that even though I may not have been able to converse in the other person’s own language we could easily communicate in TYRE.

So when I started asking questions to the various tyre exhibitors at the event I attended, they may not have understood my words but they understood my questions. We were able to converse and explore the potentials of the tyre world together.

In the days that followed after the event whilst touring tyre factories there were many aspects that a simple drawing could explain; a pencil scratching or a chalk drawing on the floor led to open discussions and explanations without actually understanding the words spoken. This is the level of collaboration within the tyre world.

Global ambassadors

Tyres are one of the true global ambassadors as they are the same right around the globe. Passenger vehicles will vary with right and left hand drive, emission controls will change from country to country; but the tyres are the same, even down to the fine details. Heavy trucks will all have differing configurations, yet the tyres will fit onto the wheels and the truck will perform as the designers intended and the drivers expected regardless of the country of origin and where they are going to.

Tyres are a prime example of universal co-operation. Tyres know no borders, they know only a single requirement and that is for the appropriate air pressure to perform the work required of them, otherwise they will work anywhere, just about any time and for anybody.

I guess the underlying question I am asking here is that “if the global community can do this with tyres, then why is it so hard for so many other aspects of our lives? Why do we make life so much more complicated than it actually needs to be?”

Mankind seems to have an ability to take a simple situation and make it serious and more difficult. Road safety is an aspect that comes to mind. There are differing requirements for vehicle safety around the globe, even the new car assessment organisations and governments can’t agree on what safety devices should be fitted to new cars and what doesn’t need to be; yet we are already agreeing on tyres and have been agreeing for many years. The tyre industry leads the globe in this co-operation, an aspect not readily acknowledged by many regulators.

One arena that has global application is that of tyre reuse and recycling. There are two aspects to this discussion:


Retreading is the most common form of tyre reuse. A properly maintained tyre can be retreaded multiple times to extend the life performance and enhance economic returns as well as reduce the burden on the environment. Appropriate pressure maintenance during the initial life of the tyre is a pre-requisite to any retreading. An end-of-life tyre may be re-purposed, that is used in some other form such as a barrier or buffer, sectioned to use the tread. Whilst this prevents the tyre from being dumped, it is often surpassed by fit for purpose items. Large tyres were used on tug boats as buffers; but these have been replaced by special items now. In some areas, passenger car tyres have been sectioned and the tread has been transformed into long-wearing footwear.

In some cement kilns whole tyres are incinerated with the clinker to assist in the formation of cement, the end product. This is a single use application. People associate burning tyres with thick black smoke, but if the process is properly controlled the emissions can be limited to just CO2 an heat. A waste to power plant has been operating in a rural / agricultural setting in Italy for nearly two decades without any degradation of the surrounding regions. The electrical power generated from this process not only supplies the tyre plant but also the local community.


Recycling of tyres is not an easy undertaking. When a tyre is processed, there are 3 primary products that are derived: Hydrocarbon oil, carbon black and steel. The steel is easily reused in steel making. Being high-quality steel with specific properties, it is well-accepted and sought-after by manufacturers. The oil is generally a class 4, too good as bunker fuel but requires further processing for use as an automotive fuel. There are some elements within the distillate that should be removed prior to use, these may include compounds of sulphur.

The carbon black is the crunch point for tyre recycling at the current point of the development cycle. Marketers will suggest that the carbon black produced from recycled tyres can be reused by tyre manufacturers; it is questionable as the quality of the carbon black derived depends on the feed stock used.

End-of-life tyres are a global issue. Many solutions have been proposed, some are current but there is still a lot of tyre dumps that are a danger to the environment.

Tyres being a global product, the solutions to reuse or recycle tyres are also global. By using the example already set by the various tyre organisations (ETRTO, ITRA, JATMA, ATRA, ITMA et al), the issues that determine tyre recycling and reuse can be resolved so that the tyre industry can move forward.

The same method should be used to educate the general public as to the substantial contribution that tyres make to modern society. The tyre resource can be maximised, fuel consumption can be reduced, mechanical damage (e.g. bearing life) can be reduced, pavement life can be extended -- just for a few examples. Thus economic benefits can flow to society as the resources consumed are minimised.

The tyre (& rubber) industry must educate the users of tyres (everyone directly or indirectly) to appreciate just what giant contribution tyres make to our societies. This is a global requirement.

Without tyres our world would be a very different place.