BRUSSELS — The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) is urging European policy makers to introduce measures targeting minimum levels of recyclate in tire and rubber products, similar to what it did with plastics.
The European Parliament should "step in, just as it did for plastics," Max Craipeau, chairman of the BIR's tire and rubber committee wrote in the bureau's 2019 annual report.
"Ten years ago, professional bottlers would have said it was not only impossible but also dangerous to incorporate recycled PET in beverage bottles," he wrote in the report.
"Now, with the help of the legislator, major water and soda bottlers incorporate 25%, 50% and, in some cases, 100% rPET in their manufacturing processes," said Mr. Craipeau, who also is founder of Greencore Resources Ltd., a Hong Kong-based processor of secondary raw materials.
There is, he added, a need to "change mindsets" and "force" rubber-based industries to incorporate a minimum recycled content in their production — as long as product properties were not greatly affected.
"Europe's market for recycled rubber will never improve unless regulators make a decisive move and impose minimum recycled contents for new products," Mr. Craipeau said.
Over the past decade, he added, breakthroughs have been made — especially in China — with non-polluting processes that have doubled the mechanical properties of regenerated compounds.
"We are getting closer and closer to real devulcanization and, with current technologies, it is possible to incorporate around 10% regenerated rubber in a new tire without really affecting its properties," he noted.
The proportion, he added, can be as high as 70% for technical parts in a closed-loop system.
At the same time, Mr. Craipeau noted that rubber is "definitely more complicated" to regenerate than plastics or metals and without support from government tire and rubber recycling will remain the "poor relation" of the recycling industry.
Mr. Craipeau also states in his commentary that less than 1% of tire scrap in Europe is regenerated into reclaimed rubber, whereas in China over 95% of end-of-life tires are turned into high-value-added reclaimed rubber.
Noting that Europe had "one of the best feedstocks in the world" for making regenerated rubber, Mr. Craipeau said he believes that mandatory recycled contents of 5% to 10% for tires and 10% to 20% for technical rubber parts "are definitely workable."