Approximately 3.3 million tons of used tires are discarded each year in Europe. Discarded tires are not worthless and can serve various reuse or recycling applications. Among other things, the tires can be used in noise barriers along motorways or as an elastic base material in horseback riding arenas.
If tires are not appropriately recycled, they will end up in the environment or pile up in garages. The recycling rate of tires in Finland is high compared to many other countries: nearly 100%.
In 1995, Nokian Tyres and other companies in the tire industry established the Finnish Tire Recycling Ltd in order to promote the centralized collection and utilization of tires nationally. In Finland, nearly 100% of tires are recycled. In all of Europe the figure is 95%. The rest of the tires are taken to landfills.
In the US, the tire recycling rate of collected tires is 76%. Our tire recycling rate was 85% of our total sales in 2020. In Russia, the tire recycling rate is low. According to local legislation, in 2020, our tire recycling had to be equivalent to 30% of our total sales in Russia, and we met that target.
We have actively participated in the discussions for driving recycling. The discussions led to the completion of relevant legislation in 2015. Together with other large manufacturers, Nokian Tyres has established a recycling association for tire companies in Russia, the EcoTyresUnion.
One challenge is the lack of tire recycling stations in Russia, which is why there are many illegal tire dumps. Our company launched an Eco Challenge in Russia to empty some of these illegal dumps and to spread awareness of the problems that they pose for the environment. By the end of 2020, they had delivered over 900 tons of used tires to recycling facilities.
Re-use as material or energy
Part of recycled tires is utilized for material; they are shredded or granulated to replace rock materials in various road construction and civil engineering applications. Rubber chips are light, insulate moisture, and maintain their form. They support the road surface and make asphalt quieter. The flexible properties of rubber are put to use once more when it is reused as a base material for sports venues.
Retreading is one of the best recycling methods. If the carcass of a tire is undamaged, it can be retreaded. Bus and truck tires, for example, can be retreaded up to 2–4 times.
Another way to utilize recycled tires is to combust them for energy, as the heating value of tires is close to that of oil. The use of recycled tires as an energy source has been growing for years and, today, approximately half of the tires recycled in Europe are used in waste-to-energy applications.
As one of the original founders of Finnish Tire Recycling Ltd we are involved in their work of looking for new ways to recycle and utilize tires.
WASTE CAN BE DIVIDED IN THREE CATEGORIES
The most significant environmental impacts of our locations come from waste and energy consumption.
Waste is generated both in our actual production and support functions. The generated waste can be roughly divided into three categories: landfill waste or non-recyclable waste, recyclable waste, and hazardous waste.
We weigh all production waste and record the department-specific volumes on a monthly basis. For other types of waste, we prepare reports annually. The waste volumes are determined in weighing by waste management companies. We sort the generated waste at our factories in accordance with separate waste management instructions. Most of the production waste is taken directly to be utilized.
We store hazardous waste separately at the collection points in containers that carry warning labels.
The utilization rate of our production waste has been growing for years. Scrap tires, or tires that do not meet our high standards of quality, are taken to recycling directly from production.
Non-vulcanized scrap rubber is generated in the production stages preceding vulcanization or curing. These material’s reuse applications include impact padding, conveyor belts, and other rubber products that do not have as critical material requirements as tires.
Other generated recyclable waste categories include combustible waste, plastics, scrap iron and steel, wood, paper, biodegradable waste, cardboard, glass and electrical and electronic equipment.
Mixed waste that cannot be utilized or recycled is taken to a landfill. We aim to further reduce the amount of landfill waste by sending the waste that we generate to recycling and utilization.
In 2020, 100% of factory waste in Finland, 99% in Russia and 99% in the US was sent to reutilization. During 2020 we found new solutions to waste management in our Russian factory, and at the end of the year, all of the waste could be send to utilization.
We take all hazardous waste to an authorized processing plant. Roughly a third of this waste is seal oil from compound mixing machines, whose consumption is directly proportional to the manufactured rubber compound volumes. All hazardous waste generated in our Finnish factory is utilized as energy or as raw materials.
According to the US legislation, no materials that could be classified as hazardous were produced at the US factory.