It is a common sight throughout Australasia - towering piles of discarded tyres, mouldering as far as the eye can see.
According to Planet Ark, the equivalent of 48 million tyres reach the end of their life each year in Australia.
About two thirds of used tyres in Australia end up in landfill, are stockpiled, illegally dumped or have an unknown fate.
As well as being a major environmental problem and fire risk, end-of-life tyres are traditionally difficult to handle from both a storage and transport point of view.
But thanks to the innovation of two companies, that process is now easier and more sustainable than ever before.
Waste tyre collector JLW Services of Cootamundra has been named the preferred supplier for award-winning Australian company Green Distillation Technologies (GDT), which has developed world-first technology capable of converting tyres back into usable carbon, oil and steel, without producing emissions.
In April, GDT received international recognition when it scored the bronze medal for innovation in the Resource Management and Renewable Resources category at the Edison Awards, held in New York.
The prize was for its destructive distillation technology, which uses controlled heat to reduce whole tyres to their original elements.
The reformed gases are distilled and collected as an oil.
The carbon is retrieved as a high-purity powder, while the steel does not get hot enough to melt, so it can be collected clean and unchanged.
When JLW Services director Jamie Walmsley
purchased an existing tyre collection company last year, he saw an opportunity to collaborate with GDT and make the business environmentally sustainable.
Mr Walmsley said he hoped his simple and clever idea of a returnable bin for end-of-life tyres would solve what has been a transport and logistics nightmare in the past for council tips as well as tyre retailers, transport companies and tyre collectors.
“I just think it's the way of the future,” he said.
Mr Walmsley said the business, which operates throughout New South Wales and north western Australia, was working toward being 100 per cent sustainable in three years.
The bins come in 50m3, 38m3, 25m3, 18.5m3, 10.5m3 sizes and comprise of a heavy duty welded cage which is dropped off at the tyre retailer, transport depot, mine site or council tip.
They are collected when full and transported to GDT for recycling.
The capacity of the bins ranges from 600 mixed car and four wheel drive tyres for the 50m3 size down to 320 for the 25m3, while the 10.2m3 is designed for waste transfer stations and motorcycle shops.
Mr Walmsley said the bin system would reduce the multiple handling of the old tyres, improving productivity.
“Usually a tyre fitter takes the old tyre off the vehicle and stores it until collection. It then has to be lifted on to the truck and when it arrives at the recycling plant taken off one at a time,” he said.
“Using the bin, the multiple handling is reduced as the end-of-life tyre goes straight into the bin.”
JLW Services currently collect about 4000 tonnes of tyres a year with a fleet of five trucks, but are planning to increase their capacity to meet GDT’s requirement of 19,000 tonnes.
GDT CEO Craig Dunn said those19,000 tonnes translated to 658,000 mixed tyres that would be processed through the company’s Warren plant.
‘We plan to start construction of another plant in Longford Tasmania which we expect to have operating in June 2016 and have plans for six more plants in Australia,” Mr Dunn said.
GDT is also in the processes of expanding into the US, and is also eyeing off opportunities in Thailand and Europe.
“From October we will be developing our first plants in the US,” Mr Dunn said.
“California, New York State, Arizona, Texas and then the mid-west.
“Our system of recycling a typical end-of-life 10kg car tyre yields 4kg of carbon, 1.5kg of steel and 4 litres of oil.
“A 70kg truck tyre will provide 28kg of carbon, 11kg of steel and 28 litres of oil.
“The oil produced from the GDT process can be used as a heating fuel, direct into some stationary diesel engines or is capable of further refinement into automotive or aviation fuels, while the carbon is a high grade product that can replace those sourced from fossil fuels and the steel is returned directly to tyre manufacturers for reuse.
“It is the only process available in the world that remanufactures the rubber from old tyres into a different energy form as most other recycling methods merely change the shape or appearance of the rubber through slicing or grinding.”