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Red Sea warning – time to stop export of UK carbon footprint – TRA calls on UK government to do the right thing, support British operators and end polluting export of end-of-life tyres

Britain must face up to the reality of its actions if it is to live up to His Majesty’s Government rhetoric, says the Tyre Recovery Association. The disruption caused by Houthi attacks on international shipping have lifted the veil many have been choosing to ignore, the UK is not building a circular economy but double dipping with unnecessary carbon leakage.

Latest figures reveal 250-300,000 tonnes of end-of-life tyre are exported from the UK per annum, yet the UK has at least 150,000 tonnes of idle domestic recycling capacity. Exported tyres are transported to market on carbon producing ocean tankers. According to the German statistics company, Statista, who looked at product tankers operating in the United Kingdom, ships end-of-life tyre exports are carried on produced the equivalent of 9.02 grams of CO2 per metric tonne of goods shipped per kilometre in 2023. With shipping now diverting via the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the Red Sea the journey lengths are estimated to have almost doubled, increasing carbon emissions by one third.

Government figures on rubber export released earlier this month show that, having completed an unnecessary carbon producing journey, 75% of these ELT waste tyre exports end up being sold into the Indian sub-content. Much of these Indian tonnages are dealt with in a manner that is highly polluting, with the Indian authorities fighting an uphill battle to end the illegal and unethical distribution of ELT waste tyres for use on vehicles and the highly polluting practice of back street pyrolysis. The life of an average worker in one of these micro and illegal pyrolysis plants is estimated at seven years, demonstrating quite how noxious the by-products from burning are to both humans and the environment.

Peter Taylor OBE, Secretary General of the TRA, said:

“It beggars belief that the government continue to enable CO2 producing exports while UK capacity lies idle. The UK tyre industry welcomes the opportunities that come from the circular economy advocated for by ministers, yet those same ministers appear incapable of pushing through the rule changes that make it work. Without much needed updating of UK regulations our nation will continue to double dip in unnecessary carbon production, first from the carbon created by ships loaded with ELTs for export and then those ELTs are unloaded into a market that is sadly rife with abuse.

“The TRA want to see responsible recycling at the heart of our industry, but the regulatory framework needed lags way behind.

“It is time our government does the right thing and stop the UK’s carbon leakage.”

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