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Many countries do not have any special legal regulations defined specifically for the disposal of used tyres. Since tyres are a solid composite, however, they should be separated into their individual recyclable components prior to disposal. In Germany alone, almost 600,000 tons of used tyres must be disposed of annually, the EU-wide figure is almost 3.2 million. Only a very small proportion of used tyres can be completely renewed and reused. For all others, thermal recovery as a substitute fuel, for example for the cement industry, is an option. Tyres are composed of a composite of rubber, textiles and metals. Added to these are a wide variety of other materials such as rayon, nylon, carbon black, sulphur, zinc oxide and various different chemicals as antioxidants. And that is not the only reason why tyres cannot be included in household waste; this is also due to their sheer size. In many places, tyres are also excluded from bulky waste. In order to generate recyclable products from tyres, they are often shredded into granulate, using a large amount of energy. The wire contained in tyres is separated and used in steelworks as a raw material. The granulate can then be used to surface sports tracks and courts, for example, or as an aggregate for asphalt.
A much more intelligent recovery process that produces not only new materials but also energy, is tyre pyrolysis. Here, roughly-shredded tyres can be thermally utilised. With a calorific value of 29 MJ/kg, a tyre represents roughly the energy content of around 5 litres of heating oil. Through pyrolysis, the components of the tyre are separated into pyrolysis gas, carbon black and metal. In a further step, diesel oil can be extracted from the pyrolysis gas, as well as all the energy needed to operate the plant. The material thus generated represents a significant improvement compared to conventional tyre disposal.
Further information on tyre pyrolysis can be found here.