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Recycled tyre rubber is being used increasingly as a sustainable construction material, says Steve Waite, project manager for tyres at WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme).

In 2003, the European Union Landfill Directive banned the disposal of whole tyres to landfill. Three years later, shredded tyres were also banned, creating the opportunity for industry to find alternative channels for the 48M tyres disposed of in the UK each year.

This legislation has given a noticeable boost to the tyre reprocessing industry, which has grown considerably in the past decade. The European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturer's Association has reported a 23% rise in the materials recycling market for used tyre material in the decade to 2006. This burgeoning industry is now producing high-quality tyre-derived rubber material that can be used in a variety
of application s from landscaping to construction and civil engineering. The material is lightweight, impact resistant, lacks any odour
and is durable and non-toxic.

In the USA and parts of mainland Europe used tyre rubber is being absorbed into the bitumen of road construction courses. Up to 20% by weight of rubber can be blended into the bitumen. This rubberised asphalt has a number of claimed advantages including reduced noise, less surface spray and better resistance to reflective cracks and rutting.

Highway authorities are keen to increase the recycled content of projects they procure. Glasgow City Council, for example, has become the first local authority in the UK to adopt a 10% target for the minimum recycled material content by value on all its major construction projects.

Tyre bales are already being used in a range of applications, such as road foundations, embankment fill, slope stabilisation and drainage systems. They offer a number of key advantages over the use of natural aggregate materials. For example, they are comparatively light and easy to transport and manoeuvre and can often be placed quickly and easily, using less time and manpower than would normally be required when dealing with natural aggregate. The bales have high permeability, high porosity and low-bulk density, as well as good frictional response and stiffness. Further savings are derived from their durability and resistance to erosion.

The compression of these used tyres into bales also reduces the demand for primary aggregate, further enhancing their status as sustainable construction materials.

While there is considerable scope for using tyre-derived rubber in construction, the product must be consistent and properly managed so contractors and clients know that materials created are fit for purpose. To provide a measure of reassurance in this area, WRAP has recently published two Publicly Available Specification (PAS) documents, which have been developed in conjunction with the British Standards Institute (BSI).

PAS 107 and 108 have been produced following a detailed analysis and consultation exercise, with input coming from a range of industry experts, including tyre reprocessors and end-users.

The new PAS documents provide manufacturers of used-tyre materials with guidance to help ensure that their finished material adheres
to a quality specification comparable to their primary material equivalent.

Ultimately, PAS 107 and 108 will help these companies reposition their products from being perceived as a waste by-product to being recognised as a practical, sustainable material with the necessary qualities for industrial application. In the same way, WRAP's Quality
Protocol for Aggregates provides reassurance to clients procuring recycled aggregate materials that the new PAS documents offer a level of reassurance that the tyre-derived rubber material clients are buying meet industry recognised specifications, are consistent and environmentally sound.

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