When the rubber hits the road | The Jackal

15 Mar 2012

When the rubber hits the road

Yesterday, TV3 reported:

More than $130,000 is being given to a product recycling organisation to research the options for recycling used tyres.

Environment Minister Nick Smith announced this afternoon that the Product Stewardship Foundation will receive $133,000 “to explore recycling options for used tyres”.

The Product Stewardship Foundation is an organisation which researches ways to reduce the environmental impact of manufactured products.

Dr Smith says the funding will help “identify the best way for New Zealand to recycle and re-use our used tyres”.

All credit to Nick Smith for recognizing a most serious environmental issue in New Zealand, but $130,000 to identify the best way to recycle old tyres is a bit over the top. Especially when you consider that all the research has already been done and is freely available online.

The study will be conducted by the Product Stewardship Foundation, which is run by four guys with farming, forestry, car sales management and trade experience. None of them appear to have any scientific qualifications whatsoever that would be required to provide further information, and this looks like yet another case of cronyism.

In an effort to save the taxpayer $130,000, here's what New Zealand should do to recycling our tyres:

  • Because larger tyre recycling facilities tend to have lower carbon footprints than smaller tyre recycling facilities, even when considering transportation, we only need one facility to service all of New Zealand.
  • The use of recycled rubber in molded products provides a substantial carbon footprint advantage over the use of virgin plastic resins, having between four and 20 times lower carbon footprint. We should use as much recycled rubber in this process as we can.
  • When used in road surfaces, recycled rubber has between three and seven times lower carbon footprint than asphalt on a materials basis. Depending on how expansive the government's road policy is, it may be that using recycled rubber in roading has a cost benefit in carbon reduction.
  • When used in energy recovery, rubber tyres provided a 17% carbon footprint advantage over coal, but tyres had substantially more carbon emissions than all other fossil fuels for power generation. Therefore using old tyres for power generation is not advisable, especially if New Zealand wants to reduce its carbon emissions.

It's time National made its cronies redundant and focused on what really matters.