Finland: Used tyres to clean up waters

Old tyres are being used as a substrate for microbe growth.(Pertti Huotari / Yle)
Old tyres are being used as a substrate for microbe growth.(Pertti Huotari / Yle)
New rules about to come into force could put an end to recycling discarded car tyres.

The changes mean environmental specialists are now racing to find other ways to save thousands of tonnes of scrap rubber from going to waste. One potential deployment for the unused tyres could be water purification, with a technique that is currently being tested in Kitee, Eastern Finland.

Every year, some 50,000 tonnes worth of used car tyres are withdrawn and sent to scrapyards — where they are in fact put to good use. The rubber in the tyres is almost 100 percent recyclable, finding valuable use as strengthening material for landfill construction.

In the future, however, this will no longer be possible, as restrictions on re-use mean that tyres can only be used in skips until the end of next year, when the last phases of the landfill law are phased in. The law took effect in June 2013, but there is a transition period for some sections of it.

Sanni Pisto, an environmental specialist from Apila Group, says that the crushed rubber develops a surface called biofilm. Nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients stick to the film and are eaten away by microbes that proliferate on the tyres’ surface.

The technique has already been tested in Heinola, and in the autumn trials will continue in a water pipe percolator in Keuruu, Western Finland.

“If an idea sounds good, we try to make it happen, one way or another,” Pisto says.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Changing environmental perceptions: Community focus sets glass business apart, Eye on the Arctic

Finland:  Finns waste less food than other Nordic nations, Yle News

Sweden: Swedes recycle in record numbers, Radio Sweden

United States: Glass recycling gains momentum in remote Alaska, Alaska Dispatch


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