The disposal of waste tyres is becoming a major waste management problem in the UK. It is estimated that 37 million car and truck tyres are being discarded annually and this number is set to increase, in line with the growth in road traffic and car ownership, by a further 39% by 2011 and 63% by 2021 (Martin, 2001). At present, it is estimated that 11% of post-consumer tyres are exported, 62% are reused, recycled or sent for energy recovery and 27% are sent to landfill (shredded tyre), stockpiled (whole tyre) or dumped in illegal tyre dumps.
Landfill has been one of the most convenient ways of disposing of waste tyres. As rubber tyres are extremely durable and not naturally biodegradable, they will remain in landfill with very little degradation over time, presenting a continuing environmental hazard. However, landfill is no longer a viable option due to the implementation of European Union legislation, which currently bans the disposal of whole tyres in landfill sites and will ban the disposal of shredded tyres by the year 2006. There is, therefore, an urgent need to identify alternative solutions in line with the UK Governmentâ€™s waste management hierarchy. This promotes recycling ahead of disposal and energy recovery.