The Rubber Recycling Symposium in Niagara Falls Ontario two weeks ago provided excellent insight into the key concerns of people in the industry, as well as many new and exciting innovations being developed and affecting the industry.
The Symposium brought together people from Canada, the United States, and Europe to highlight recent developments in everything from government policy, technology advancements, consumer issues and end markets. Key concerns included:
- The anticipated demise of Ontario Tire Stewardship (OTS) as a result of the new Waste Free Ontario Act (WFOA). Numerous people expressed their regret that OTS would go to waste. Interesting that over the years there has been so much complaining about OTS, yet now the vocal people are talking about it “being a shame to lose all the good work done by OTS”.
At the same time, there are rumours that OTS will morph into a new Ontario or Canadian tire stewardship services organization – possibly being one of two or three such organizations or programs.
- What will happen to end market processing in Ontario that has been developed over the last six years, if the new WFOA regulations allow producers to ‘recycle’ by the cheapest method? This could result in allowing producers (or their service providers) to ship to other provinces or the USA and ‘recycle’ through processes that do not result in end market products (besides energy).
- There is a continued dramatic decline in demand for synthetic rubber for playing fields and other direct consumer products, with a major factor being the negative press about this application for used tires. These concerns were described as the legitimate science that proves it is safe vs the “soccer parent” perceptions of toxic playing fields.
Another key focus was the various new and/or improved processes and technologies for recovering material from used tires. These include:
- Recent developments in converting used tires into electrodes for lithium ion batteries – a growing market.
- Although using used tires in the manufacturing of new tires is still a small amount, it is receiving significant efforts and is moving towards the circular economy.
- Continued development has been made in other technologies and processes for converting tires into oil, gas, or energy, e.g., gasification, devulcanization, etc.
A representative from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) provided an outline of what is known (publicly) on the next steps for the legislation and for used tires specifically. The answer did not provide much new information. Unfortunately he had to leave right after his talk and was not available to have discussions with stakeholders and hear the follow up discussions and suggestions.
There was tension in the many discussions around the symposium, and an expectation that something in the Ontario program is going to happen soon. The takeaway was that if stakeholders want to develop and consider options in the new legislation or submit approaches or solutions to the MOECC, companies need to do it very soon. At least one major tire processor applauded the changes saying it allowed for the “reset” button to be hit with opportunities for improvements.