A new asphalt that uses recycled waste tyres has been launched by Tarmac.
The leading materials and construction firm is thought to be the first in the UK to develop such an asphalt technology, which is capable of recycling end-of-life tyres (ELTs) into roads using granulated rubber in the asphalt mix.
Tarmac estimates that it will be possible to recycle and reuse up to 750 waste tyres for every kilometre of highway surfaced with the new material, depending on the thickness of the road, which would help to reduce the 120,000 tonnes of rubber waste exported from the UK annually.
The initiative is part of Tarmac’s commitment to the circular economy and to be a net user of waste.
The business recycles 8.7 million tonnes of waste from other industries every year, and reuses waste tyres to power its cement kilns.
Brian Kent, technical director at Tarmac, said: 'While plastic recycling has attracted media headlines, used tyres remain a significant and overlooked waste stream and our new innovative rubber modified asphalts offer a more sustainable option for our industry and the environment.
'Rubber is used in asphalt across the USA, but in the UK there is a lack of the necessary industrial infrastructure required to allow manufacture of this type of material. Against the backdrop of major investment in the strategic road network there is now an opportunity to leverage this technology and unlock the benefits of this circular economic approach.'
As part of recent trials of the new material, Tarmac supplied asphalt with rubber in Coventry.
Rob Little, senior engineer, highways technical, Coventry City Council, added: 'Coventry City Council is delighted with the rubberised asphalt trial; we hope we can use more of the product across the city in the future to help divert waste tyres from landfill and incineration to reduce the carbon footprint for road construction projects in Coventry.
'We are proud to be leading with our partners, Balfour Beatty and Tarmac in providing road surfaces which are providing significant environmental benefits for our communities.'
Peter Taylor OBE, secretary general of the Tyre Recovery Association commented: 'While there has been significant progress in reusing and recycling waste tyres in the UK, there is still an over reliance on the export of used tyres to countries such as China, India and Pakistan, who are importing fewer tyres as they become self-sufficient.
'The UK needs a second disposal route for used tyres. Tarmac’s commitment to developing rubberised asphalt provides an excellent opportunity to achieve this and deliver environmental savings for this under-used waste stream.'
There are around 40 million waste tyres per year in the UK.