Turning tires: a second life for end-of-life tires

The COP26, the annual United Nation conference regarding climate changes’ issues, has took place only a month ago in Glasgow and differently from other years, the 2021 edition has been particularly followed by public opinion. Among the several conclusions, it has been settled a 45% CO2 emission reduction by 2030. Right now, the automotive sector is one of the largest responsible for global emissions and it is therefore reasonable to expect significant changes on this front.

Every year in Italy an average of 2 million cars are registered (source A.N.F.I.A.), and with the increasing demand, it becomes crucial a proper disposal of wastes generated by end-of-life vehicles. Among the waste materials, the disposal of used tires remains a critical question: every year, 18 million tons of tires worldwide become “end-of-life-tires” (ELTs). However, where do our former tires end up? In the past, their main destination was the landfill, with consequent land occupation and pollution of soil and groundwater. Even simple incineration comes along with problems, due to the risk of acid gases production and release of small dust particles in the atmosphere.

Since 2006, tire producers and importers must respond to Legislative Decree no. 152/2006 – art. 228th and provide for the management of the same quantity of ELTs placed on the market, complying with the principle of Extended producer responsibility. In this regard, research has been studying intensively solutions to provide the most effective use of the ELTs collected by the various consortia. One of the simplest roads passes through mechanical grinding, with the production of tire powder, reused for example as filler in construction industry or in the formulation of plastic mixtures.

On that note, Reciplast project (funded by Regione Piemonte, POR FESR 2014/2020) aims – among other goals – to find recycling solutions that exploit tire powder as a polymer additive. In particular, within the project, the successful collaboration between Proplast and C.M.P. Bresso has led to the realization of polymeric systems based on recycled LDPE and ELT, in percentages that can reach 65% by weight. These new materials have high impact absorption capability and therefore potential use in many sectors.

C.M.P. Bresso will validate the effectiveness of these materials by creating impact protection from accidental collision that will be applied to the fencing structures in playgrounds: these padding require in fact an elastomeric component, here represented by tire powder, able to absorb the impact and to protect players from serious trauma. Soon the first prototypes will be produced, but it is already evident that the application of these materials is potentially infinite. As if to say: what goes around comes around, even for the wheels!

Irene Kociolek


Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Alessandria, member of Proplast, is always at our side.