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Operators promote the management of end-of-life tyres: the proof is provided by a survey carried out for Ecopneus by Lorien Consulting, whose experience is already listed among best practices by GiPA, which awarded the consortium the Excellence Trophy for Respecting the Environment

Francesco Lojola

THE NEW DEAL for end-of-life tyre recovery multiplies its constants: the start date, 7 September 2011, three months after the publication of the ministerial decree governing management, and even the consolidation of a strong subject and a supply chain process that has gained the approval of tyres specialists. These are the results of a survey carried out by research company Lorien Consulting on behalf of the Ecopneus consortium, one of the organizations that are active in recovering ELTs and is able to collect about 80% of the total generated in Italy by tyre specialists, workshops, service stations, garages and company fleets. And which in 2012 accredited and served over 30,000 collection points (CPs) by making 78,200 journeys to collect over 240,000 tons of ELTs, which were sent to 40 treatment, recycling and recovery plants. Described at Autopromotec in Bologna during the conference, “The advantages of the new national ELT management system: the Ecopneus experience”, the research involved a third of the consortium’s 60 members (tyre manufacturers and importers), and 1,500 CPs throughout Italy. Its aim was to find out about the level of satisfaction and highlight the perceived strong and weak points.

Respect for the environment and the law
“The picture that emerged” – stated Lorien Consulting MD Antonio Valente – “was that of considerable general approval of the entire management system. Solidity and strength together with organizational efficiency, punctuality and the ability to communicate were the pluses mentioned by Ecopneus members. On the other hand, they would like to have a more active and incisive role in the relationship with the institutions and also point out that the contribution for collecting ELTs from trucks and agricultural vehicles is too high”. Given that the consortium is the leader of the sector, members request that it undertakes to do more about raising public awareness, fill gaps in the law, include solid tyres in collection and push the use of rubber as alternative energy.
On their side, collection point interviewees  “think that the law (Min. Dec. 82 of 11 April 2011) and innovations that envisage more eco-compatible behaviour are positive; at a year and a half since Ecopneus began operating, 91% of members believe that the situation has improved: more clarity and control, which discourages illegality, but hope that there will be less bureaucracy.  However, only 40% of the sample was aware of the final use of ELTS and the added value of transformation.”

Satisfaction with few exceptions
As to the commitment with regard to the environmental impact of their work, three-quarters of the interviewees believe that it is a key subject and that specifying the economic value of the eco-contribution in the invoice is an advantage. “Questioned on their reasons for choosing Ecopneus” – Valente added – “CP operators stated,  in order,  the easy to use website and fast response to a request. There are no particular complaints and when we add very satisfied (25.1%) to quite satisfied (70.8%), the approval rating is extremely high. Complaints stand at 1.2%”. According to the survey, operators are also very aware of the Ecopneus brand, the perceived image of which is flattering: seriousness and reliability, efficiency and attention to the needs of individuals.
“We are pleased about it” –  commented consortium managing director Giovanni Corbetta – “and, thanks to the contribution of all the players in the recovery chain, we are absolutely convinced that the system will guarantee results and economic benefits that were unimaginable only two years ago. From this point of view, we will pursue new developments by making additional investments”. Starting with the restyling of the website, the consortium’s method of communication: “Not just aesthetically but also content that will make it easier to access information by more immediate and complete navigation functions”.

The eco-contribution could be reduced
“It would be to the advantage of registration and notification procedures. Moreover, next year we will be installing a new IT management system: an application that receives all the requests from collection points, is used to track the entire process and, in accordance with the regulation, to inform the Ministry for the Environment not only about collection but also the completion of recovery”. Another area of investment is collaboration with universities and research centres on developing new ways for using ELTs. The tyres are ground down to produce chips, crumb and powder that can be reused in a variety of ways. “By recycling this material” –  Corbetta observed – “we can obtain more and thereby reduce the environmental contribution by consumers. Since 7 September 2011 we have lowered the eco-contribution for ELTs from €3 to €2.50: a reduction that goes against the trend compared with the general increase in the cost of logistics. It has enabled us to gain in efficiency and make better use of the final products”.
What’s more, last year Ecopneus emptied six stockpiles of ELTs that had been abandoned since 2011, a total of over 14,000 tons, “and collected 6% more than the legal minimum, without asking for more contributions. Ecopneus is a non-profit consortium with 12 employees and in 2012 its turnover was €75 million. In accordance with the law, 30% of any operating surplus is allocated to disposing of stockpiles accumulated in the past, and 70% to reducing the environmental contribution paid by tyre buyers”.

• End of life tyres – Destination recyling

The transformation of ELTs from waste to resource obviously begins with removing them  from vehicles, after which they are collected and delivered to distribution centres, where they are weighed and stored in specific areas before being treated. This begins with bead breaking and the removal of steel wires that are sent to foundries for recycling. The first shredding stage reduces the casings to crumbs between 5 and 40 cm in size; in addition to rubber, these still contain fragments of metal and fabric, but cement factories can use them as fuel. The second shredding stage reduces the material to smaller pieces with special processes being used to separate the rubber from the metal and textile fibres. The rubber can then be shredded into crumb or powder for use in modified asphalt, sports grounds, insulation materials, urban furniture, and new rubber compounds.

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