Brussels - Crumb rubber produced from end of life tires (ELTs) is not to affected by a recently introduced REACH restriction on the use of materials containing certain poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), according to the European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA).
In a press statement, ETRMA said the European Commission had decided that, as a mixture, ELT-derived crumb rubber fell outside the scope of new guidelines drawn up by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
The ECHA has extended REACH restrictions to include materials containing some PAHs in consumer articles (Entry 50.5 of Annex XVII). PAHs are present as impurities in certain raw materials used in tire manufacturing and, therefore, in ELT-derived crumb rubber.
The extension triggered alarm across the tire-manufacturing and tire-recycling industries, particularly because it posed a threat to the use of crumb rubber recyclate in artificial sports fields, playgrounds and other shock-absorbing surfacing materials.
EU member states were asked in November 2015 to clarify their views on the exact scope of that restriction, which could have closed off markets that take over half of all ETL rubber materials produced in Europe.
In a meeting of March 2016, “the EC shared their interpretation on the scope of the restriction and confirmed that ELT-derived crumb rubber is a mixture and, therefore, falls out of the scope of Entry 50.5 of Annex XVII,” the ETRMA reported 4 April.
The association is, meanwhile, aware of other threats to the continued use of ELT crumb rubber in sports surfacing, not least concerns being raised in the US about potential health risks from synthetic turf pitches. These issues have promted on-going studies on the safety of these materials in California and, more recently at US government level by the president’s office.
ETRMA said “will be closely following the studies conducted by California authorities and a newly launched study to be conducted at the federal level in the US (announced on 12 February 2016 by the Obama administration.”
The Brussels-based industry group added that “several scientific studies based on proper risk assessment have shown that the presence of PAH impurities in crumb rubber poses no threat to human health.”
ETRMA went on to point out the environmental benefits of tire recycling, and the industry’s proactive approach in supporting R&D programmes towards sustainable recycling routes over the last 20 years.
Since 1996, it noted, over 36 million tonnes of ELTs had been collected throughout Europe and recovered as a substitute for fuel or virgin raw materials. This, it said, has led to the near elimination of tires being sent to landfill.