The economic value of ELTs: from waste to ”secondary raw material”

Collecting ELTs, recovering and reusing materials to create new products, are central to the whole idea of a circular economy, not to mention the research that goes into the use of new technologies. Based on this, Ecopneus builds its own idea of circular economy. The consortium that deals with the management of ELTs has just reached the tenth year of activity and a few months ago Federico Dossena was appointed as general manager filling the position that used to be occupied by Giovanni Corbetta. His professional career began in the printed paper sector and in all that concerns the supply, marketing and management of paper, its recycling and reuse. During his career, Dossena has worked for several publishing houses such as Mondadori, the Upm Group and the Ds Smit Group, in positions that have allowed him not only to grow professionally but also to acquire the necessary skills to best manage a company's resources by eliminating waste. Skills that have led him become general manager of Ecopneus.


director of Ecopneus, Federico DossenaFederico Dossena, since July 1st you are the new General Manager of Ecopneus, what will be the guidelines and objectives of your mandate?

Before thinking about what needs to be done, it is always important to understand where you are. If I can focus on future projects, it is because I inherited a stable, consolidated system capable of collecting ELTs efficiently throughout the country. We are talking about a system made up of a group of companies specialized in the management of end-of-life tires, which, thanks to technological development and the expertise of its specialists, is able to find numerous practical applications for recycled rubber. If we consider the overall numbers of these 10 years, with more than 2 million and 200 thousand tons of ELTs collected and partly recycled, we can draw a positive balance in terms of saving raw materials and water, as well as reduced CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. We plan to build the future on these figures. The objectives I have set myself relate to the development of technologies and the search for new practical applications for recycled rubber. I'm thinking of chemical recycling or the much debated devulcanization process. A method that would enable rubber to take a decisive step forward in the quest for secondary raw materials, as it could be reused to produce tires. This represents a significant challenge, given that, as things stand, a process of this type, although technically possible, is still too expensive to be adopted on a large scale. It is crucial at this stage to implement studies and research in order to develop technologies that allow the product to be used sustainably. A commitment that I intend pursuing with Ecopneus in the coming years".


An efficient supply chain is needed to carry out the projects you referred to. How are the companies that work with you faring at the moment and what kind of volumes are we looking at?

"Annually we collect about 200 thousand tons of ELTs, equal to 60% of the market. These numbers picture an efficient supply chain that moves according to ethical values of sustainability and transparency. The approximately fifty companies that work in the collection and processing of ELTs, selected according to a process of tenders carried out every three years, deal with the collection and processing of End-of-Life tires. In ten years, this has led to recovering up to 53% of raw material from tires. The rubber recycled through this process has been used in making sports grounds and recreational surfaces in particular the infill of soccer pitches with synthetic grass and the production of rubber surfaces to be applied on basketball courts. A tangible and perceptible impact for citizens who can see how the environmental contribution they pay when purchasing tires is used. But there's more. Recycled rubber is also useful for resurfacing roads although, in this case, we are looking at a rather low percentages of use, something that Ecopneus plans to rectify, along with the supply chain, to increase the volumes. This last step is the result of the publication of the End of Waste decree, which has provided further guarantees of quality and safety for recycled rubber from end-of-life tires”.


An achievement that would allow companies in this sector to expand their business

"Absolutely. The End of Waste decree is an important contribution to stability in the sector and today represents a concrete driving force towards an increasing use of recycled rubber. The measure has clearly and unvaryingly regulated the reuse market, setting parameters that allow the reuse of recycled material along with criteria of safety and quality that companies involved in this sector must adopt in their working processes. Therefore, those who work with "secondary raw materials" will be able to start expanding the range of their products. This is an important step forward that allows a supply chain based on a circular model to grow".


For tire dealers, the recovery of ELTs is still a problem. Ministerial Decree 182 of 2019 introduced great innovations in dealing with present unresolved issues. From your point of view, has it produced the hoped-for effects?

"On paper, Ministerial Decree 182 is a perfect regulation as it contains all the elements that would allow to tackle the problems related to ELT collection. As a consortium, we have done our utmost to comply with the regulations, often exceeding the legal target. In ten years, in fact, we have collected 120 thousand extra tons of ELTs. However, some problems still persist, such as black-market products that affect the work of many serious and honest professionals. This is why, rather than thinking about correcting or changing the Ministerial Decree 182, it is important to find a system for monitoring the products that are placed on the market so as to give the entire supply chain an effective solution. We are here to support the supply chain and we prove it every day by trying to solve these as well as other critical issues as best we can. The fact that many tire dealers call us confirms that we are viewed as reliable".