8 May 2017

Tackling tyre mountains

From Nine To Noon, 9:09 am on 8 May 2017

Regional councils, prompted by fears of dangerous fires, are taking action over millions of used tyres stockpiled around the country.

Every year the country generates about five million end-of-life tyres, 70 percent of which end up in landfills or are "stockpiled" on private land with serious environmental impacts.

An announcement on funding for new ways of recycling them is expected soon from Environment Minister Nick Smith.

Meanwhile, regional councils, led by Waikato, say they are close to finalising guidelines for all councils to use to deal with tyre stockpiles in their areas.

And the Ministry for the Environment is developing a National Environmental Standard on end-of-life tyres, which will clarify the legal situation for councils.

An illegal tyre dump in Waikato

An illegal tyre dump in Waikato Photo: Supplied

Waikato Regional Council senior manager Patrick Lynch has been coordinating the national guidelines for regional and district councils.

"The RMA [Resource Management Act] as it stands currently is silent on the storage and stockpiling of tyres, of end-of-life tyres, so where it should fall is in the separate district and regional plans that would normally control that kind of activity.

"Unfortunately there's 74 of those around the country so it takes a heck of a long time and the chances of getting them consistent is remote, and so what we identified quite early on in this project is that national guidelines and regulations were needed."

Fires were extremely problematic with large piles of tyres, Mr Lynch said.

"[The Fire Service] tell us tyre fires are incredibly hard to fight. So what we're trying to do is bring in guidelines that will reduce either the risk of fire or the consequence of fire.

"But the reality is, if the plume [of smoke] was heading towards a populated area, you'd be wanting to evacuate."

Mr Lynch said there were some meaningful limited uses for end-of-life tyres. 

"People say that they need to stockpile a certain number so they have got a critical mass that they can work with.

"They can be used as a reasonable industrial fuel, but of course the by-product from the burning and combustion ... there's a fair bit of technology and infrastructure required."

He said a specialised factory would be needed to contain the emissions from using the tyres as fuel.