The world’s largest ‘tyre graveyard’ is set to be transformed into a new residential area.
Located about a dozen kilometres from the capital of Kuwait, the waste dump in question contains over 50 million tyres.
Discarded tyres take up a lot of landfill space, especially considering their slow decomposition rate. Upon break down of their rubber components, tyres emit ecologically hazardous chemicals. The toxic materials contained pose a heightened fire risk, with waste tyre fires on landfills prone to continue for up to nine months.
In the past years, numerous fires have been reported at the Arhiya site, close to the city of Al Jahrah, the towering plumes of toxic smoke emanating from the desert region having garnered the attention of the world community on multiple occasions.
In 2019, a fire that consumed 1 million tyres and covered 25,000 million square meters broke out, remarkable in that it could be seen from outer space.
Beyond releasing cancerous substances such as sulphur oxides and carbon monoxides into the atmosphere, open tyre fires are also responsible for the dispersion of heavy metals and oils into the environment.
Currently, the Arhiya landfill is devoid of tyres.
The site will be utilised for a large-scale housing project, to be implemented in the suburb of southern Saad Al-Abdullah. The Kuwaiti Environment Public Authority (EPA) has transferred the tyres it formerly housed to Salmi, which is in closer proximity to an already existing tyre recycling facility.
According to the EPA, repurposing of the discarded tyres is intended via recycling, there being plans for the building of 52 additional recycling plants in Salmi. These facilities will treat both tyres as well as plastic and paper waste.
This move is supposed to pre-empt the building of another landfill.
Plans for the recovery of critical materials from said disposed tyres are also in the works. EPSCO Global General Contracting has already declared its intention to repurpose tyres for the building of roads and sidewalks, at a possible capacity of 2 million per year.
Despite the taken measure to eliminate tyre waste, local authorities have called on the government to impose further initiatives to tackle excess tyre waste volume, suggestions ranging from the delegation of EPR mandates to heavy equipment and transport companies to the involvement of community volunteers in active disposal efforts.
Recycling end-of-life tyres serves to reduce the environmental impact of tyre residue.
Potential uses are to be found in the construction of equestrian arenas, artificial sports fields or jogging tracks, with roads built from waste tyre material being exemplary in that they are quieter than conventional asphalt-based roads.
The process helps prevent the spread of diseases, as piles of disposed tyres present a likely nesting place for rodents and mosquitoes.
Yet waste tyre pyrolysis, the most common form of recycling used tyres, has also come under fire for the emission of toxic gases. The relative ‘cleanness’ of the operation with regards to emissions level is often dependent on the quality of material being processed.
As recently as 2019, environmental activists pointed out that tyre recycling in Kuwait does not conform to international standards.