CEO Insights: Lina Goodman, Tyre Stewardship Australia
What are the three biggest challenges or threats facing your industry in 2023?
There is no doubt that Australia’s circular tyre economy, which spans a number of industries, is feeling the impact of current global and local economic, political and environmental volatility.
Vagaries associated with shipping; inflation; shifting workforces; natural disasters; the cost of living; energy and food security; and consumer uncertainty — all these challenges are forcing us to focus on survival in the short term, sometimes at the expense of longer-term sustainability goals. The risk is we lose hard-won traction on reducing waste and ultimately greenhouse gas emissions that could put us years out from the 2050 target the government has set for us.
This perfect storm is shining a light on Australia’s economic and environmental interdependencies, and what is needed for us to remain resilient — such as fit-for-purpose product stewardship schemes that can harness those interdependencies through circular-economy thinking and regulations that do not inhibit legitimate businesses from contributing to circularity.
An independent review of the Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme this year showed it has reached a plateau of what it can achieve. As a result, used tyre recovery has been listed on the Minister’s product stewardship priority list. This puts the makers and importers of tyres on notice that they must take responsibility for the impacts of their products on the environment across their entire life cycle. If they do not, then government will act.
Hanging in the balance are regional, rural and remote Australian communities missing out on commercial opportunities, jobs and environmental resilience, because of the cost and logistics of recovering big, off-the-road (OTR) tyres.
The current Scheme does not make a distinction between size and geographic use of tyres, and therefore does not recognise the unique constraints around big OTR tyres used by mining, agriculture and construction outside metropolitan areas. What works for the recovery of passenger car, bus and truck tyres, where we have an average of 89% recovery rate, does not work for the large, OTR tyres where we have only been able to achieve an average of around 12% recovery rate.
We must address the tyranny of distance between big OTR tyre users and metropolitan processing centres, to leverage opportunities for people living and working in regional, rural and remote Australia; and make sure no one is left behind.
What are the opportunities you predict for the growth of your industry in 2023?
Many opportunities for growth lie outside our cities — In the potential applications of Tyre Derived Material (TDM) we can recover from the big, OTR tyres used in mining, agriculture and construction.
They also lie within the brains of manufacturers who have the appetite to think big and think differently.
Then there are the Government departments acting seriously on procurement policies to drive greater consumption of TDM and reduce ‘green tape’ inhibiting the uptake of proven and tested products.
Finally, we know tyre processors are ready to take the plunge.
The tyre has become a valuable resource. The opportunities for using TDM are an exciting new frontier. If Australia can unlock these, we can become global leaders.
To do that, we need to close the consumption loop by further developing a pipeline of end markets for TDM.
This is something we can fix now.
Doubling down on end-market development means that, when we can span the tyranny of distance to recover that TDM from OTR tyres, we will have ready-made markets to consume this valuable resource.
So, over the next year, we will be backing Australia’s brightest minds, with funds and support, to develop the next big, outside-the-square idea that will help reinvent the tyre in Australia for Australians.
Commercialisation is key, and we will continue to work hard at it.
How are you ensuring resilience to climate change and associated extreme weather and natural disasters?
Extreme weather and natural disasters can only be understood through a local community lens. One solution does not fit all.
So, we put a lot of emphasis on supporting Councils to deal with the challenges on a local level, in three ways.
The first is to fund and support the use of rubber crumb and other products such as permeable pavement, in the construction of civil infrastructure, such as roads, pavements, playgrounds and sporting fields, which are more resilient to extreme weather.
The second is to undertake research, such as our 2022 Tyre Particle Health, Environment and Safety Report, that builds the knowledge bank Councils can draw on to make informed decisions around the use of TDM.
Finally, we offer technical support and guidance for all Councils to undertake due diligence for civil works, evolve their procurement model and set quotas for use of rubber so they gain the most benefit for their community from both an environmental and economic standpoint.
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