One million tons of end-of-life tyres, around a hundred million ELTs, equal to the weight of eight cruise ships. That’s how many end-of-life tyres have been collected and recovered since the launch of the national system, in September 2011, by Ecopneus, the non-profit company that manages 70% of the ELTs in Italy. A round number with which Ecopneus celebrates its four years of activity, during which it has recovered the equivalent in weight of 100 million individual car tyres that have been transformed into powder for silent asphalt, environmentally-friendly sports flooring and sound-proofing for construction, as well as the production of new energy and cement. Ecopneus has never limited its work to the legal objectives: of the million tonnes collected, 80,000 were recovered going beyond the assigned target to respond to operator demand and guarantee an efficient service to the system, preventing any risk that ELTs would be abandoned in the country.
In more detail, the numbers of tyres collected and sent off for recovery from 2011 to today vary from region to region according to the number of tyres replaced: the regions with larger numbers are, in fact, Lombardy (96,170 tonnes) followed by Campania (82,394 tonnes), Lazio (79,357 tonnes) and Sicily (77,836 tonnes). In the rest of Italy, these are followed by Veneto (76,562), Puglia (76,393), Emilia Romagna (74,424), Tuscany (61,342), and Sardinia (50.640), then Calabria (45,893), Piedmont (44,223), Trentino (38,293), Marche (28,250), Abruzzo (24,103), Umbria (21,167), and Liguria (19,677), and closing with Friuli (15,192), Basilicata (12,958), Molise (7,233), and Valle d'Aosta (318).
From 2011 to today 62.5% of the ELTs collected have been used for energy recovery, while 37.5% have been transformed into new materials such as steel and rubber granules and powder. The material recovery sector is one on which Ecopneus is betting with great conviction, with an investment in research and innovation – from 2011 to today – that has already reached 14 million euros in order to promote applications of rubber recycled from ELTs. This panorama of growth has witnessed the use of recycled rubber in sports flooring (30%), play areas for children (13%), sound insulation for construction (5%) and low noise asphalts (1%) to date.
The green economy industrial system implemented by Ecopneus therefore represents an excellence that involves 103 companies with 700 full-time employees, a network of qualified companies selected by tender that, with Ecopneus, have begun a process of continuous improvement of the quality of the manufacturing and products to revive the entire sector. The advantages produced are both economic and environmental in nature if you consider that, in 2014 alone, at a national level, 105 million euros were saved on imports of virgin raw materials and the emission of 344,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere was avoided, as well as the waste of the 1.8 million m3 of water and 377,000 tonnes of mineral and fossil resources necessary to produce the goods being replaced by recycling.
“Our activity has also translated into a boost to the legality of the system and has raised the quality level of the end-of-life tyre recycling industrial chain,” declared Giovanni Corbetta, the Director General of Ecopneus. “We have tried to interpret the provision of the law with a spirit of great attention to ethics and responsibility: these values are an integral part of the results that we bring to the country, for which today we want to thank everyone who has contributed and helped us.”
Since 2011 Ecopneus has also intervened in emergency situations, clearing 12 historical stocks from which about 60,000 tonnes of ELTs were taken, equal in weight to about 7 million individual car tyres, a volume equivalent to that of over 80 Olympic swimming pools. There has also been a repeated action in the “Terra dei Fuochi” [“Land of Fires”] area thanks to an extraordinary protocol signed with the Ministry of Environment and local administrations in which Ecopneus has recovered and recycled over 420 tonnes of ELTs thanks to 94 pick-ups in 14 different municipalities, as well as promoted initiatives for environmental dissemination and awareness-raising in the schools.
In addition to its routine activity, Ecopneus’ work in these years has also been oriented toward information, environmental education with the involvement of thousands of students throughout Italy in educational projects, social responsibility activities such as pick-ups in archaeological areas or the construction of sports facilities in disadvantaged areas, training initiatives dedicated to control authorities and law enforcement agencies, and over 100 local events. To learn about them all: www.ecopneus.it.