Substantial environmental benefits from mechanical tyre recycling into infill for artificial turf pitches are demonstrated by new LCA Study

Tyres are complex products subject to strict standards to fulfill mobility and safety requirements. Proper treatment of end-of-life tyres (ELTs) is essential to recover valuable materials of which tyres are made, namely rubber, steel and textiles. A new peer-reviewed study, based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) meeting ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 standards, made by the Danish FORCE Technology Institute and the German ifeu – Institut für Energie- und Umweltforschung Heidelberg GmbH[1] demonstrates that mechanical recycling of ELTs into infill for artificial pitches is, by far, the most sound treatment option in terms of circularity and climate benefits. The LCA study shows that the mechanical recycling of an average of 400,000 tonnes of ELTs processed into infill for artificial turf – when compared with energy recovery – spares the environment 280,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually in the EU. To give an order of magnitude, ELT recycling as infill into artificial turfs offsets greenhouse gases emissions (GHS) comparable to the amount of GHS absorbed by 140,000 hectares (approx. 250 million trees) of forest land in the EU[2].

In Europe, more than 3 million tonnes of ELTs are generated annually. From these ELTs, it is estimated that around 60% are used in material recovery applications. This means that almost 40% of the discarded tyres mostly follow a linear economy model, involving combustion for energy recovery which generates greenhouse gases emissions, posing an environmental concern especially when those tyres are exported to non-EU countries with less stringent environmental legislation. In contrast with co-incineration, mechanical tyre recycling yields a valuable greater amount of raw materials for other processes, raw materials that otherwise are often extracted and imported from outside Europe. From those ELTs going through material recovery, 400.000 tonnes are upcycled per year to be used as infill in artificial turf pitches in EU + United Kingdom + Norway. Artificial turf pitches represent one of the main market applications for rubber granulate from ELT and it is present in approx. 75-80% of European artificial turf pitches.

ELT-derived synthetic turf systems offer significant benefits to society due to their ability to sustain intensive use throughout the years in most weather conditions. They are also meeting the highest standards in terms of players’ safety by minimizing the risk of injuries, of skin burns and abrasions (e.g., strained ankles and knee injuries). Furthermore, ELT-derived infill is known to be among the best materials regarding physical and sport performance (i.e., elasticity and durability) as well as in terms of sustainability, having a low carbon footprint in comparison with other alternatives.

The new LCA study confirms the positive climate and environmental footprint of mechanical tyre recycling when compared to co-incineration. On average, for each tonne of end-of-life tyres processed into ELT rubber and used as infill in artificial turf pitches, the climate is spared 700 kg of CO2 equivalents, confirming that ELT recycling supports the overarching objectives set in The European Green Deal to speed up the transition towards a circular economy and achieve climate neutrality by 2050

As the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has recently expressed a preference for a complete ban with a transitory period for ELT-derived infill in relation to the ongoing assessment of the restriction on intentionally added microplastics, EuRIC MTR looks forward to bringing further evidence that standardized risk management measures can effectively prevent the release of microplastics from rubber granulate into the environment to preserve a sound use of recycled materials offering substantial societal and climate benefits.

[1] Life cycle assessment of waste tyre treatments: Material recycling vs. coincineration in cement kilns, Force Technology with contribution by ifeu – Institut für Energie- und Umweltforschung Heidelberg GmbH, for GENAN Holding A/S, May, 2020.

[1] European Parliament News. Climate change: using EU forests to offset carbon emissions (Eurostat), April, 2018.

Source:  EuRIC (Photo: O. Kürth)

 

EuRIC unveils Plastic Recycling Brochure

Plastic is an important and ubiquitous material in our daily lives and for the European economy. However, to maximize their multiple benefits and mitigate environmental impacts, improving the circularity of plastics at all stages of the value chain – design, production, use and recycling phases – is instrumental. Recycling plays a key role in that respect by turning waste into high-quality recyclates. By doing so, it contributes to save virgin resources, greenhouse gas emissions and energy. 

Source: EuRIC

The Brochure highlights the importance of moving towards a circular economy for plastics in Europe. It identifies the most commonly used types of plastics and describes the current state-of-play, challenges faced by the European mechanical plastics recycling industry alongside with key recommendations to overcome them. Plastics recycling’s environmental benefits and economic importance is also touched upon.

Paul Mayhew, President of EuRIC’s Plastic Recycling Branch (EPRB) and General Manager at MBA Polymers, emphasized the major contribution that plastics recycling can make towards a circular economy for improving Europe’s competitiveness and resource efficiency.

Moving towards a more sustainable economy for plastics will deliver considerable benefits. What is missing in order to speed up that transition are measures to stimulate the demand for recycled plastics in products through recycled content targets and incentives rewarding their environmental benefits when compared with virgin plastics and a more consistent legislative framework. It is essential to further restrict landfill and incineration of but also better control unprocessed plastic waste exports outside Europe to countries with lower recycling standards.

These measures are even more urgent today with the plastic recycling industry which has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with a plummeting demand and overly low virgin plastics prices with whom recycled polymers compete.

Following the substantiated call for recycled content of plastics in new cars recently launched by EuRIC, this factsheet will be followed by other publications stressing the vital role played by the recycling industry to realize the transition towards a circular economy and to make of the EU the first world-class economy to achieve climate-neutrality by 2050.

Source: EuRIC

Characterisation of fires caused by batteries in WEEE (Report)

More and more electrical and electronic products in everyday life contain batteries, making life more convenient or pleasant. However, those same batteries, when damaged, also increasingly cause these products to catch fires.

In the past few months, organisations representative of the industry that manages the collection and treatment of spent batteries and electronic waste (WEEE) and of manufacturers of home appliances and consumer electronics gathered to exchange views about this issue of growing concern in order to design measures to counter the frequent occurrence of fires. A survey among recyclers resulted in a better understanding of the issue of fires in the WEEE management chain. The report, “Characterisation of fires caused by batteries in WEEE”, has been prepared by EuRIC and the WEEE Forum with the active contribution of experts from various organisations including the co-signatories namely EERA, EUCOBAT, Municipal Waste Europe and the WEEELABEX Organisation. It seeks to jointly assess the severity of the issue.

The survey shows that the number of fires in the WEEE management chain is going up and that the fires mainly occur in mixed WEEE. Damaged batteries are seen as responsible for those fires.

“Battery fires are one of the most important issue impacting recyclers currently” says Emmanuel Katrakis, Secretary General at EuRIC, the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation. “This fact-based report confirms that fires occur at every stage of the collection and treatment of WEEE, but we see a higher prevalence during treatment and at the logistics and pre-treatment stages during storage”, the survey tells us that for most fires, there is a high prevalence of frequent yet small thermal events that cause no or little damage. The most severe fires identified by respondents were mostly described as intense fires and lasting between 1 to 6 hours. More than a third of the respondents reports one of those severe fires. The report roughly estimates the average costs associated to most frequent fires in 190 000 €, and 1.3 M€ for most severe fires.

The report includes a set of recommendations to further investigate some aspects that were addressed in the survey, but for which an in-depth analysis is key to have a better grasp of the issue. This includes for instance consequences for the reuse sector, the efficiency of the rules concerning the international carriage of dangerous goods by road (ADR), or the detailed cost breakdown of damages caused by battery fires.

“This report provides a set of facts and figures”, says Pascal Leroy, Director General at the WEEE Forum, the international voice of e-waste producer responsibility organisations. “It was extremely important to carry out that work collectively in a Roundtable, gathering the most relevant representative organisations in order to develop a shared understanding of the issues of concern. A follow-up report will analyse best practices to tackle fires associated with batteries”, he added.

 

For any inquiries on the subject please contact euric@euric-aisbl.eu and info@weee-forum.org.

Source: EuRIC (Photo: Benny Van den Steen)