By Denna Bowman
Two thirds of used tyres from Australia are exported to Asia under cheap waste disposal deals.
However, the World Health Oraganisation is warning that the practice – which has tripled in size over two years – is responsible for health hazards in the region.
The booming export exercise leaves fewer tyres being dumped in Australian landfill, but it also contradicts parts of the international Basel Convention on moving hazardous waste, of which Australia is signatory.
About 11 million car and truck tyres are sent overseas, mainly via Vietnam, according to confidential Federal Government estimates and industry data.
Australian companies have filled a void left by a European Union edict which scaled back old tyre exports from Europe to Asia in 2007 because of health and environmental concerns.
Dave West, director of the Boomerang Alliance recycling body, said: ”Governments across the board have gone to sleep on this issue because it is largely unknown and they have not been under public pressure.”
He said successive government departments had avoided their responsibility to develop a national framework for recycling.
Tyres contain many toxic additives, including lead, cadmium and acids, which can seep into waterways and enter the food chain. Tyres have been linked to the spread of dengue and yellow fevers in tropical regions because they retain stagnant water, in which mosquitoes breed.
The environment groups hope an industry plan for national recycling incentives will be agreed to at a meeting of the Environmental Protection and Heritage Council next month.
The meeting, to be chaired by the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, will consider national recycling schemes for tyres, televisions and computers.
”This is the first time waste has been looked at in a national context since 1992 and tyres are one of the first three waste streams under review,” a spokesman said.
The Australian Tyre Industry Council said it had the support of key manufacturers to develop a national recycling scheme, if the state and federal governments agreed on a regulatory framework at next month’s meeting.