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A tyred old problem: what to do with used tyres

Denise Roche MP
Denise Roche MP
denise [dot] roche [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)

This week a warrant was issued for the arrest of a man whose company has been fined almost $80,000 for dumping an estimated one million tyres at a Waikato property, Radio New Zealand reported.

Used tyres are a problem to dispose of and tyre companies often pay people to dispose of them. Many people who obtain used tyres no doubt dispose of them safely. But as Jo Knight, Chief Executive of Zero Waste New Zealand says (3’13), “This is a place where there have been a lot of rorts and it is really time and a case for the disposal of tyres to be regulated.”

I couldn’t agree more. Tyres can be a valuable resource, rather than a waste. They can be used for many things including as an ingredient in long-lasting and quiet roading surface, rubber bollards and rubber road dividers, and as a base material for shoe soles, rubber floors and waterproof membranes. It can also be used in the manufacture of sports-ground surfaces and even for the backstop at shooting ranges.

Luckily for New Zealand, we already have legislation in place that could be used to ensure that we treat used tyres as a resource rather than a waste. Under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008, which began as a members bill by Green MP Nandor Tanczos, the Minister for the Environment has the power to create a mandatory product stewardship scheme that requires the recycling of tyres. 

The Minister also has the power to put make the tyre companies pay up front for the recycling of the product. The companies would be charged up front for every tyre they make or import, and that money would be used to ensure the proper disposal of the tyres at their end of life. This is called an “advanced disposal fee”. Advanced disposal fees are a great idea because the funds generated can be used to build the necessary recycling infrastructure. This has been working effectively in places like Canada for decades.

Mandatory product stewardship schemes and advanced disposal fees are tools that can be applied to tyres, but equally to other valuable resources which are often consider waste, such as electronic goods.

This year the Minister for the Environment needs to make some positive moves towards a waste free New Zealand. Declaring tyres a mandatory product and introducing advanced disposal fees could be the first step.  

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