How should we best dispose of our used car tires? The RubberRoad project addresses the responsible use of tires, stimulating the production of asphalt with rubber content in Norway.
Used tires represent a significant waste problem both globally and in Norway, with ca 60,000 tons of tires been discarded in our country every year. It is not allowed to dump used tires in a landfill. Instead, tires are burned for energy or recycled for their material like for use to fill artificial soccer fields. However, the waste treatment methods for used tires currently used in Norway leads to serious environmental and climate effects, including harmful emissions of micro-plastics and chemicals to water, air, and soil. Therefore, alternative more sustainable ways to dispose of our used tires need to be considered.
RubberRoad proposes to use rubber from used tires in the production of asphalt for road and bicycle ways. This recycling approach has not gained much attention in Norway despite is apparent advantages, such as noise reduction, increased durability, safer shock impact, and reduced climate and environmental impacts.
The Life Cycle Analysis carried out during this project feasibility study has demonstrated a series of environmental benefits in the use in the use of rubber in asphalt production. It has also helped identify relevant knowledge gaps related in particular to the use phase of the rubberized asphalt and its impact to noise, air and micro-plastic pollution. Better understanding of these effects would probably result in even larger environmental benefits of rubberized asphalt with respect to standard asphalt production. However, while the tire recycling industry is generally positive to the disposal of used tires in asphalt production, additional incentives need to be put in place for the Norwegian asphalt producers to consider actively contributing to this development.
The project LCA has shown how increased use of ELTs in asphalt production is expected to reduce the need for polymer-based bitumen using ELTs as a secondary raw material and how there is an environmental benefit when using asphalt rubber solutions in comparison with standard asphalt. Still, there is a need for further understanding of the life span of both tires and the asphalt, the emission of particles, including micro particles and chemicals but also the characteristics including noise reduction, and resistance and elasticity. The project has identified several knowledge gaps and also significant barriers for uptake by asphalt producers. The main concerns by asphalt producers were related to smell, micro-plastic emissions and recyclability of rubber asphalt and it is clear that additional incentives need to be put in place for the Norwegian asphalt producers to consider actively contributing in further research on rubber asphalt or possibly testing it on Norwegian roads.
Used tires (ELTs) represent a significant waste problem both in Norway and globally. While tires are not produced in Norway, they are sold, used and recycled in large numbers, with about 60,000 tonnes of tires discarded annually. It is not allowed to landfill ELTs, causing a challenge on how to deal with an increasing number accumulating every year. This situation demands new and innovative ways for recycling and repurposing ELTs. Typically, ELTs are burned for energy recovery or recycled for material recovery. However, these options have serious climate and environmental impacts. In view of growing concern about the release of micro-plastics and chemicals from tire granules, recycling and repurposing options in which the ELT derived product is sequestered are preferable and the use ELT in asphalt production in Norway should be re-considered.
The RubberRoad project will evaluate the environmental, economic and social sustainability of producing Rubberized Asphalt solutions in Norway. It will also identify what hinders the sustainable use of rubber asphalt in bicycle paths, motorways, city roads and pedestrian walkways, despite identified advantages such as noise reduction, higher rutting resistance, increased durability, breaking black ice, thinner layers, reduction of cracking, distinct road separation/striping, shock absorption, reduction of CO2 emissions, energy savings and lower emissions to water and air. The project will enable not only applications in Norway but also internationally in countries with similar road conditions. This will make the Norwegian transport road construction and asphalt sector greener and more competitive in the context of a circular economy.