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Australian tyres prompt health concerns -

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Australian tyres prompt health concerns

Bronwyn Herbert reported this story on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 12:34:00

ELEANOR HALL: The World Health Organization is warning about the Australian tyre industry's trade
with South East Asia which it says is responsible for health hazards in the region.

Australian motorists wear out 11 million tyres each year. But most of that waste rubber isn't
recycled here.

Two-thirds of it is sent to countries in Asia and that amount has tripled in the last 18 months as
Bronwyn Herbert reports.

BRONWYN HERBERT: 250,000 tonnes of tyre rubber is worn thin on roads, mines and paddocks across
Australia each year.

But two-thirds of that waste is exported.

DAVE WEST: The number of tyres reaching South East Asia and particularly Vietnam has exploded over
the last sort of 12 to 18 months.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Dave West is the director of the recycling organisation - Boomerang Alliance.

DAVE WEST: It's certainly been going on informally, but we are now hearing that it's between 60 and
65 per cent which is something like 11 million tyres hitting some of the most ill-equipped nations
to be able to deal with the problem.

BRONWYN HERBERT: When tyres reach the end of their life, often at a mechanic workshop, the products
are bought by tyre recycling companies but currently it costs more to arrange for the environmental
disposal of tyres here in Australia, than it does to export them.

Allan Kerr is the president of the Australian Tyre Recyclists Association. He says there's a strong
demand in Asia to burn tyres as a cheap source of electricity.

ALLAN KERR: Tyre have an inherent fuel value in them. I think in short it's an energy derived
demand that is coming out of Asian countries, and effectively shipped in shipping containers from
there. The bulk are going to Vietnam as we speak.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Dave West says tyres contain nasty heavy metals that are not only toxic in the
waste stream, but pose serious health risks.

DAVE WEST: Particularly when they are burnt, they can release persistent organic pollutants like
cadmium, lead and acids into the environment which are obviously a significant health risk.

There are also quite well documented for being connected with the spread of disease particularly
dengue fever. The World Health Organization has drawn a number of clear links between the spread

of dengue and the export of tyres.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The export of waste could breach the international Basal Convention on moving
hazardous waste, of which Australia is a signatory.

Environmentalists and recyclers say successive Australian governments have failed since 1992 to
develop a national framework for tyre recycling.

Silvio De Denaro is the secretary of the Australian Tyre Industry Council, which represents the
major tyre manufacturers.

SILVIO DE DENARO: The tyre industry is not responsible. The tyre industry is actually actively
lobbying government to ensure this phenomenon stops because not only it has the potential to damage
other countries but also it stifles the growth of local recycling industries.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Allan Kerr from the Tyre Recycling Association says some operators are complicit
in the trade of hazardous waste,

ALLAN KERR: Possibly unwittingly, in that, I don't think our tyre retailers are sending them
directly - they are going through third parties.

BRONWYN HERBERT: So what can you do about it?

ALLAN KERR: What can we do? Hopefully we can give some support to the domestic recycling industry
for the future.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Dave West from the Boomerang Alliance says the cost to the consumer of ensuring
tyres are properly recycled would cost 85 cents a tyre.

Environment groups and the Tyre Industry Council are hoping a national recycling plan can be agreed
to at next month's meeting of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council.

ELEANOR HALL: Bronwyn Herbert with that report.