Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which commissioned the research, is urging recyclers to do more to exploit the potential resources.

Steve Waite, project manager for tyres, said: “With many thousands of tonnes of steel currently available for recovery in the UK, the opportunities in this market are considerable.”

The research revealed 100,000 tonnes of steel and 17,000 tonnes of fibre could be recovered annually compared to a third of these totals at present.

The situation is blamed on a number of factors.

They include the existing reprocessing system, limited take up of technologies to boost recovery, the cost of separation and the image of tyre-derived steel and fibre as waste rather than a raw material.

There is only one steel reprocessing company in the country using tyre-derived steel mainly because of quality concerns.

Instead, much of it is sent overseas for reprocessing.

The report identifies an opportunity for industry to boost recycling and open up new and valuable markets.

It highlights reinforced concrete as a potential high value use for tyre-derived steel.

Meanwhile, uses for tyre-derived fibre include as a fuel, in insulation, road paving and packaging.

WRAP, a government backed not-for-profit company working to boost business and consumer recycling, believes there is a case for change.

“The report has revealed a great opportunity for tyre reprocessors to separate steel and fibre from tyres and promote the use of these materials in other applications,” said Mr Waite.

“This will help divert a high tonnage of material from landfill each year, as well as presenting another quality recycled material for consideration in a range of new or developing end uses.

“With extensive research and development into the end use applications for these materials and clients increasingly setting requirements for the use of materials with recycled content the markets for tyre-derived steel and fibre have potential to develop further.”

David Gibbs

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