Kuwait's burial ground for used tyres


n average car tyre will travel around 20,000 miles over its lifetime, but when they have reached the end of their life in Kuwait... they are destined...

n average car tyre will travel around 20,000 miles over its lifetime, but when they have reached the end of their life in Kuwait... they are destined for the tyre graveyard. In Kuwait City's Sulaibiya area every year gigantic holes are dug out in the sandy earth and filled with old tyres -- there are now over seven million in the ground. The expanse of rubber is so vast that the sizable indents on the earth are now visible from space.

Last year a fire broke out at a tyre dump near Al Jahrah Kuwait which was so big that it could be seen from space. It is believed that around five million tyres fuelled the fire which specialists struggled to control. Hundreds of firefighters as well as soldiers and employees of the Kuwait Oil Company took part in the efforts to extinguish the blaze. A month later another fire broke out at an Amghara scrapyard and firefighters from six stations were drafted into help. Tyre fires are difficult to extinguish - they produce a lot of smoke, which often carries toxic chemicals from the breakdown of rubber compounds while burning. It is thought the tyres are from both Kuwait and other countries which have paid for them to be taken away -- four companies are in charge of the disposal and are thought to make a substantial amount from the disposal fees.

According to the European landfill directive, this type of 'waste disposal would be illegal in Europe -- since 2006 EU rules have banned the disposal of tyres in landfill sites, leaving about 480,000 tonnes of recyclable shredded rubber each year.

In Britain all car and truck tyres must be recovered, recycled and reused. Currently, more than 80 per cent of the 55 million used tyres generated in Britain are processed via the Responsible Recycler Scheme. The scheme ensures full traceability and accountability of waste tyres throughout the disposal chain, from collection through to their final reuse in an environmentally friendly or acceptable method. Materials from properly recycled tyres are used for a variety of uses, including a children's playground, running tracks, artificial sports pitches, fuel for cement kilns, carpet underlay, equestrian arenas and flooring. Bales of tyres can be used in the construction of modern engineered landfill sites and flood defences.

If waste tyres are in good condition, they can be re-moulded and put back on the road as 're-treads'. In 2010, just over 30 per cent of waste tyres were turned into crumb, 18 per cent were used in energy recovery, nearly 20 per cent were re-used (in the UK or abroad), 16 per cent were specifically used in landfill engineering and 11 per cent were re-treaded, according to the Environment Agency.

In some circumstances, tyres are shipped out to countries such as India, Pakistan and Malaysia, but there are strict laws about their exportation. The Environment Agency says: "While there is a legitimate export market for quality recyclable material, the illegal export of waste undermines law-abiding disposal and tyre recovery businesses in the UK and risks harming people and the environment in the country the waste is exported to." Last month it emerged that recycled car tyres could soon be used to surface roads across the UK after a pioneering trial found they made roads quieter. One of the busiest roads in Scotland was resurfaced last year with the asphalt, containing shredded rubber from old tyres. Tests were performed on grip and skid resistance, with engineers reporting that the rubber road, on a stretch of dual carriageway between Perth and Dundee, resulted in a quieter drive. � Daily Mail

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