Old tyres wheeled out for resurfacing motorways

13th August 2019


About 40 million tyres are produced in Britain each year, 500,000 of which are thought to end up in landfill sites overseas

Old tyres will be used to resurface motorways under plans designed to stop them being sent to landfill sites overseas.

A new asphalt has been created using waste rubber as part of a trial funded by state-owned Highways England.

The surface has been laid on part of the M1 near Leicester to test its long-term durability. If successful, it could be used on motorways across England.

There are concerns over how best to deal with the 40 million tyres produced in Britain each year. Under European Union rules they cannot be sent to landfill, so the majority are recycled and used in the manufacture and construction of facilities such as football pitches.

However, it is believed that as many as 500,000 a year are shipped out of the UK to huge landfill sites in the Middle East and Asia. More than seven million tyres are understood to have been dumped at one landfill site in Kuwait.

The new road surface has been developed by Tarmac, the British building materials company. In a first for this country, it has developed asphalt technology that recycles tyres by adding granulated rubber to the mix. It is estimated 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 top layer.

A section of the southbound M1 between junctions 23 and 22 has been laid with the surface.

About £180,000 has been invested in the trial through Highways England’s £150 million innovation fund.

Paul Fleetham, the managing director of Tarmac, said: “As a previously overlooked waste stream, used tyres offer a significant opportunity to unlock the benefits of a circular economy.”

Martin Bolt, Highways England’s corporate group leader, said: “The economic and environmental potential of this new asphalt is significant.”