Every year over 50 million tyres are supplied in the UK. BTMA members are committed to further increasing the sustainability of road transport through improved performance at every stage of the product lifecycle.
New products, new markets and new ways of doing business are all subjects of current industry research and innovation.
Intense competition and demanding regulation drive increasing functional and environmental performance. This is enabled by cutting-edge research into material technology and advanced manufacturing methods.
Tyre design has evolved over 100 years as new materials and manufacturing techniques have contributed to ever-increasing performance. The advent of the radial tyre in 1948 represented a step-change in tyre technology and performance.
Despite appearances, tyres are a hi-tech composite requiring high performance raw materials to meet the ever-increasing demands on safety, performance and environmental impact.
Tyres are a safety-critical vehicle component and are subject to multiple international regulations governing many aspects of their functional and environmental performance.
As part of the European plastics strategy, the tyre industry is pursuing a reliable tyre abrasion resistance test to inform consumer choice and possible future regulation. However, road safety must not be compromised by the pursuit of improved abrasion resistance.
BTMA members are pursuing the use of recycled, recovered and bio-sourced materials in new tyres without loss of functional performance. Several major manufacturers have committed to producing tyres from 100% sustainable raw materials by 2050.
However, progress is time-consuming. Not only must alternative raw materials be developed but the formulation of the tyre itself must be adapted to accommodate their slightly different characteristics. Switching to alternative raw materials is not a straight swap. Extensive product testing is necessary in order to respect the imperative of maintaining product safety. Product development cycles are typically 4 years for car tyres and 7 years for truck tyres.
BTMA members have already developed alternative sources of natural rubber to relieve pressure on supplies from rainforest plantations and have launched pilot plants to produce synthetic rubber from biomass. Tyre manufacturers are now using soy bean-based extender oils and silica produced from rice husks, and will soon be using textile reinforcement derived from recycled plastic bottles made from PET.
Research is ongoing into increasing the proportion of finely-ground rubber from end-of-life tyres that can be incorporated in new tyres without detriment to functional performance.
The pyrolysis of end-of-life tyres offers several pathways to material re-use including recovered carbon black and feedstock for the manufacture of synthetic rubber, both of which have the potential for use in new tyres.
For our position about sustainable raw materials, click here.
For the tyre industry’s roadmap to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, click here.
Tyre neglect is widespread: 17% of MOT test failures are tyre-related. Improved tyre stewardship would bring significant improvement to both the environmental impact of mobility and road safety.
Surveys show repeatedly that 25% of vehicles have at least one tyre 25% under-inflated. Over 600,000 tyres and 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 are wasted in the UK every year due to tyre under-inflation.
Highways England report over 3600 tyre-related incidents a year on the strategic road network causing personal inconvenience, traffic disruption and risk to roadside repair personnel. Many of these incidents could be avoided through improved tyre care.
Recognition of the impacts, direct and indirect, of our actions is a first and necessary step on the journey towards improved road safety and increased resource efficiency.
For information on customer choice of replacement tyres, click here.
For information on technology in tyre management, click here.
Defra reports that over 5 million salvaged partly-worn tyres are supplied in the UK every year. Although this contributes to increased resource efficiency, many used tyres are not suitable for further use; of almost 500 blind purchases of second-hand tyres made by Trading Standards Officers in recent years, 58% did not comply with the minimum safety standard required by regulations.
Demand for second-hand tyres is longstanding and resilient. Market research shows that consumers are principally the young and economically disadvantaged. Those of modest means should not be obliged to compromise on road safety, for themselves or for other road users.
The present market for second-hand tyres is failing to protect the motorist. A better functioning market is needed to satisfy demand with safe product whilst contributing to improved resource efficiency.
For more information on second-hand tyres, click here.
Retreading gives a whole new life to suitable used tyres. However, only 50% of candidates meet the exacting requirements to be given a second life.
Retreaded tyres are safe: 4 out of 5 civil aircraft fly on them. International regulation ensures that retreaded tyres meet the same safety standards as new tyres. In all other respects retreaded tyres offer similar or better performance than the original tyre.
Using retreaded truck and bus tyres delivers three times the resource efficiency and consumes four times fewer tyres than using low-cost single-life tyres. All at the same overall tyre cost per mile.
95% of retreaded truck and bus tyre used in the UK are made in the UK. 85% of the used tyre is re-used in a retread, greatly increasing resource productivity and improving supply resilience.
Truck and bus tyre retreading has the potential for at least a 50% increase in market share, reversing the recent losses to low cost single-life “budget” tyres. This would restore the market share of retreaded truck and bus tyres to its historical level of over 45% of replacement tyre sales, save the consumption of at least 400,000 tyres every year and support over 5,000 UK jobs.
For more information on retreading, click here.
Over 90% of the UK’s used tyres are presently collected. However, several million used tyres remain unaccounted for and 14,000 incidents of fly tipping involving used tyres are reported every year.
The full potential of the industry’s voluntary compliance scheme has been frustrated by regulatory loopholes and the challenges of effective enforcement.
The industry is committed to 100% capture of used tyres into compliant channels to maximise recovery opportunities and curtail waste crime. A renewed model for used tyre collection is needed, capable of consistently delivering today’s environmental agenda.
Processing end-of-life tyres into valuable secondary raw materials offers the prospect of improved environmental outcomes, increased added-value, hi-tech skills and export growth.
Over a third of used tyres are presently exported for re-use or recovery abroad. This represents a missed opportunity for increased UK resource productivity and improved supply resilience.
For many reasons public opinion and governments are increasingly challenging national reliance on the international trade in waste, preferring recovery in the country of arising.
Innovative recovery techniques currently under development offer the prospect of an extended range of high-value applications for tyre-derived secondary raw materials
Several UK tyre pyrolysis projects are either under construction or at the advanced planning stage.
Further UK investment in advanced processing know-how and infrastructure offers multiple strategic, economic and environmental benefits compared to waste export.
For information on used tyre recovery, click here.