Not waste, but commodity
The South African government’s ground-breaking tyre recycling and disposal programme is not only contributing to the cleaning up of the environment but it’s also generating US$70 million in annual revenues. The Integrated Industry Waste Tyre Management Plan, being implemented by the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA), has already gained global recognition. It utilises a sizeable chunk of the revenue thus generated to develop a sustainable tyre recycling industry in the country. CEO of the non-profit organisation Hermann Erdmann says REDISA is unique not only in Africa, but globally.
The Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA) is recognised as a unique initiative in building a sustainable solution to tyre disposal and recycling problem. It coordinates the collection of funds from tyre producers through the Waste Management Fee rules and then utilises them for the development of South Africa’s tyre recycling industry.
“The single largest expense is funding the reverse logistics involved in collecting and aggregating the waste tyres for delivery to recyclers via intermediate storage depots where appropriate,” REDISA CEO Hermann Erdmann told Polymers & Tyre Asia.
“It’s important to note specifically that REDISA does not engage in tyre recycling itself. It’s, and is required to remain, strictly independent of recycling operations,” he clarified. “Its role is to administer the funds and the overall programme in the best interests of the country as a whole,” he said in the interview.
REDISA has been running at full speed only since the past few months, and is well on the way to achieving its first year targets. The fee collection system is fully operational and the first depots and transport contracts have been set up in pilot operations, with full rollout commencing before the end of the year, he said.
It is expected that the waste tyre management fee will generate about US$71 million a year, and 80 per cent of it will be used to develop a sustainable tyre recycling industry. The scheme has legislative backing in the form of Waste Tyre Regulations of 2009 under the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (2008).
Erdmann says he looks at waste tyres not as waste, but as a commodity. Thanks to the fee collection, tyre disposal has become economically viable. It is needless to say that REDISA is unique not only in Africa, but globally. Indeed the Global Economic Symposium held this October in Kiel, the capital of the most populous northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, had devoted a whole session to discuss the REDISA model because of its novelty and significance.
Many tyre disposal programmes in other parts of the world do not have regulatory backing and experience ‘free-rider’ rates (producers who do not contribute to the costs of recycling) of 30 per cent or more. In many countries the process is further plagued by frauds which are very difficult to control. The reason cited is that recycling fee is collected at the retail stage rather than at producers’ level,” the REDISA chief explained.
Under the South African rules it is compulsory for tyre manufacturers to register with REDISA and it has the authority to supervise and monitor the work of the members.
Erdmann said that “because, there are relatively few tyre producers in South Africa, it is much easier to manage the collection process.” The collection is backed by clear-cut functional systems such as audit procedures to verify compliance, cooperation with Customs, and a ‘whistle-blower’ service to allow reporting (anonymously if requested) of illegal importers.”
Although REDISA has no enforcement powers as such, compliance with its plan, which has the force of law, is compulsory. In fact non-compliance with the mandatory procedures is considered a criminal offence. “Offenders can be prosecuted, and there is a specific office for environmental law enforcement to deal with this and other environmental transgressions,” he has pointed out.
Elaborating on the key provisions of the Integrated Waste Tyre Management Plan, Erdmann elaborated that under the rules tyre producers have to pay a waste management fee based on tyre mass. All producers pay the same fee per kilogram. So the fee is not a competitive factor.
The fee collected by REDISA is used to subsidise informal and small collectors, establish a network of waste tyre depots, and support recyclers engaged in transportation, storing and recycling of waste tyres.
The plan has several objectives apart from having to deal effectively with waste tyres. He says that it also aims to create jobs, drive the formation of new businesses, especially by the small and medium enterprises, target specific disadvantaged social segments and reduce the national carbon footprint.
REDISA also supports the R&D activities of the tyre and tyre recycling industries, drive programmes to extend tyre life and optimise the total contribution to GDP and remain independent of the tyre and tyre recycling industries.
Transporters, who will receive payments based on weight and distance, will be given specific service orders to collect a given quantity of tyres from a collection point, typically a tyre dealer, and deliver them to a depot or recycler where they will be weighed in.
Like in many countries, South Africa is also witnessing an increase in vehicle population, which means the challenge of handling the complex problems of disposal of end-of-life tyres. There is no doubt that developing sustainable ways of disposing used tyres is a serious issue before the government.
These pose significant problems, Erdmann said pointing out that South Africa introduces some 270 000 tonnes of tyres annually into the market. “The end-of-life tyres end up in landfill, or are illegally dumped, or are illegally burned typically for the scrap value of the steel in them.”
The REDISA chief says less than 10 per cent of used tyres are either burned in a controlled environment for energy recovery, or recycled into rubber crumb. “Most disposal practices pose various health hazards in the short or long term.”
Disposal of end-of-life tyres also results in enormous economic burden on the government and society as landfill volume is increasingly expensive and difficult to expand. REDISA is a unique green model that other countries grappling with end-of-life tyres can adopt.