CURITIBA, Brazil – Tires do more than make automobiles run.
They can be transformed into asphalt, shoes, ducts, floors, carpets – and even alternative fuel.
But when they’re not recycled, they take up to 150 years to decompose.
Brazil is ranked second in the world regarding concern for sustainable consumption, trailing India, according to the 2010 Greendex report by the National Geographic Society and the international polling firm GlobeScan.
The high ranking is not only a result of consumers’ increased awareness in Brazil, but also of a series of rules that manufacturers, including those in the tire industry, must follow.
In 1999, the National Commission of the Environment (CONAMA) determined tire manufacturers and importers were mainly responsible for the environmentally friendly collection and disposition of discarded, non-reusable tires.
The regulation has been changed numerous times in the past 11 years, but the basic rule has remained the same: recycling tires is mandatory by law and the manufacturers’ responsibility, according to CONAMA Resolution 416 of 2009.
Manufacturers Bridgestone, Firestone, Goodyear, Michelin and Pirelli in 2007 created Reciclanip, an arm of the National Association of Pneumatic Manufacturers, so they would be compliant.
Reciclanip is responsible for the collection, transport and final destination of tires.
“We work through partnerships, mostly with city halls,” says César Faccio, Reciclanip’s executive in charge. “The city halls grant plots of ground, which meet specific safety and hygiene rules, and the places are used for gathering and storing tires coming from tire repair shops, resellers and even citizens.”
Reciclanip has more than 460 collection points nationwide.
In 2009, 250,000 unserviceable tires were collected.
During the first semester of this year, 146,000 tons of tires had been received.
“The industries already have invested US$114 million in the project [from 1999 to July, 2010],” Faccio says.
Companies’ efforts to comply with the law are monitored by the government.
The Solid Waste National Policy, which was sanctioned by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Aug. 2, also has reinforced the responsibility of tire manufacturers regarding tire recycling.
The legislation establishes a set of rules for solid waste management.
Paraná setting the standard
Nearly 24,000 tons of tires annually need to be removed from vehicles in the southern state of Paraná.
In 2009, 25,000 tons were collected, according to Laerty Dudas, Solid Waste coordinator at the state’s Secretariat of Environment (SEMA).
Thanks to a partnership started seven years ago between the state government and the industries, Paraná is considered a “clean state.”
“But, of course, this is the kind of thing we can’t eliminate – we have to keep fighting it,” Dudas says. “And this fight is endless.”
Paraná’s experience – and success – in tire recycling resulted from the cooperation between the public and private sectors, Dudas says.
“We don’t want the manufacturer to be the only responsible party,” Dudas says. “We want the responsibility to be shared with resellers, dealerships, tire repair shops and whoever else works with tires.”
So as not to violate the law, the manufacturers decided to set up group collection tents and share the cost of the rental.
“In Maringá, in the state’s northern region, the sharing [of the rental] costs R$9 [US$5.17] for each company,” Dudas says. “Imagine what [a mere] R$9 means for a big dealer.”
In Paraná, most of the tires sent to recycling are transformed into the alternative fuel that substitutes for coal. Giant Votorantim Group’s cement facility in the city of Rio Branco do Sul and state-owned Petrobras’ energy power plant in the city of São Mateus do Sul are the main consumers of this type of fuel.
Secondhand tires can’t be imported
CONAMA Resolution 23 of 1996, which prohibits the importation of used tires, caused more controversy nationally than any law regarding tire disposal.
CONAMA’s reason for the law?
Brazil has enough internal tire production, therefore importing used ones would generate unnecessary damage to the environment.
The resolution has caused companies, such as Paraná-based BS Colway, to change their businesses.
Francisco Simeão, BS Colway’s director, says he ended the company’s business in importing secondhand tires in 2007, causing him to fire and indemnify 1,200 employees. The machinery used to recover the imported secondhand tires couldn’t even be sold, as the market had shrunk following CONAMA’s resolution.
“The social harm was even bigger, with the loss of jobs in Brazil and the reduction of investments in social programs that had been carried out by our company,” Simeão says.
BS Colway now imports new tires and is erasing its financial losses.
But its recycling rates are much lower compared to when BS Colway imported used tires.
“Today the [cost of] collecting and disposing of unserviceable tires is very small compared to the times when we imported used tires,” Simeão says.