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Tarmac hoping to tackle tyre graveyards

Martin Bolt and Paul Fleetham

Road surface using rubber from recycled tyres being trialled on M1 by Highways England

A NEW road surface using recycled tyres is being trialled on the M1 motorway by Highways England. If successful, it is hoped that this new method will take a huge step towards tackling the millions of disused tyres piling up every year.

A section of road between junctions 23 and 22 on the southbound carriageway of the M1 near Leicester has been laid with the new surface, which has been developed by Tarmac. Highways England is funding trials into the new asphalt mix to see if this environmentally sound innovation could be the way forward for future road surfaces.

Using waste tyres in roads has both economic and environmental benefits. Some 40 million waste tyres are produced every year in the UK and more than 500,000 of them are shipped out ot the country to be landfilled.

EU rules ban the disposal of tyres in landfill sites, so the tyres generally go to the Middle East and Asia. There are more than 7 million tyres filling one Kuwaiti landfill site, which is so vast that the ‘tyre graveyard’ is now visible from space.

Tarmac are believed to be the first in the UK to have developed an asphalt technology which recycles tyres by adding granulated rubber to the mix. The company estimates that up to 750 waste tyres could be used in every kilometre of road surfaced with the new material, depending on the thickness of the road.

The trial on the M1 will test the effective durability of the road surface on a highly trafficked network.

Corporate group leader Martin Bolt (left of photo), who oversees innovations projects for Highways England in the Midlands, commented: ‘Highways England is committed to investing in innovation to help us meet the economic, environmental and efficiency challenges we face in our changing world, and also to delivering environmental improvements as we strive to ensure our road network works more harmoniously with its surroundings.

‘This trial could well be the first step to rapidly reducing the number of tyres piling up in the UK and beyond. The economic and environmental potential of this new asphalt is significant, and we are delighted to be working with Tarmac in this trial.’

Tarmac managing director Paul Fleetham (right of photo) said: ‘Technical innovation has a key role to play in improving the environmental performance of our roads. As a previously overlooked waste stream, used tyres offer a significant opportunity to unlock the benefits of a circular economy.

‘There has been a very positive response to our rubberized asphalt since the first local authority trial was announced in May and we’re very pleased to be working with Highways England to explore its potential to support the sustainability of the strategic road network.’

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