Author: Christine

The Trouble with Tyres

More about New Zealand’s problem with end of life tyres.

by Peter Sadd

Last year I wrote about the government’s unwillingness to accept an industry proposal on how to deal with the estimated 4 to 5 million end of life tyres generated every year in New Zealand.   In June, Environment Minister Nick Smith announced the government’s plan to deal with the issue

In brief, taxpayers will spend $19 million dollars to set up a process to deal with the annual flow of used tyres. So called “legacy” tyres ie those in existing dumps, are not covered by the plan. Over $17million of this cash will go to Fletchers at the Golden Bay cement plant in Whangarei ($ 13.6m) and Chinese owned Waste Management NZ  ($ 3.9m). The rest will go to five other firms and research institutes to investigate alternative uses for the tyres.

The Big Idea is for Waste Management to collect and shred the tyres using equipment paid for by the grant at plants in Christchurch and Auckland. The shredded material will then be freighted to the cement plant. There the tyres will be burned as fuel in the kilns, modified mostly at taxpayer’s expense (the company is putting up $ 4.5m) and thereby disposing of 3.1 million tyres per annum and reducing emissions by “13,000 tonnes per year, or the equivalent of 6000 cars.”  This saving is calculated on the basis that the rubber used in the tyres is a tree crop, whereas the coal it replaces is non renewable.

Sounds good? Not according to the NZ Product Stewardship Council.  It calls the Government’s plan a “False solution” which “won’t work” . In a scathing press release issued on the same day as the minister’s announcement,  the Council  argues that not only will the scheme not work but also that “ Smith’s solution continues to allow dodgy tyre companies to defraud consumers by charging $5 per tyre recycling fee- without any measures in place to ensure they are actually recycled”.

Existing tyre recyclers are not happy either.

In Christchurch, Tyre Collection Services owner Daryl Shackleton said the move threatened “the livelihoods of several other businesses and their staff”.”It’s going to create unfair competition. [Golden Bay Cement is] getting free money to do what we’re already doing.


Adding to the criticism, Green Party spokesperson Denise Roche had this to say

“Rather than burning millions of taxpayer money on corporate welfare and polluting the environment, the Government should put a price on tyre waste at the point of sale,”

The Greens concern about polluting the environment presumably stems from concern about the emissions from the kilns. The Minister’s press release assures the public that the high temperature used “minimises pollutants “ released into the atmosphere. This confident assertion begs the questions: What pollutants are emitted, in what quantities and under what conditions?

Both the Greens and the NZ Stewardship Council see the best solution as a  point of sale levy of about $5 per new tyre which would then be used by the industry to deal effectively with the stream of end of life tyres (probably by incineration ) and also generate sufficient funds to eventually clean up existing piles of legacy tyres. This, in essence, was the plan proposed by the tyre industry in 2016 after much consultation and research. The plan was rejected by Minister Smith.

So,  Corporate Welfare or a sensible plan? The 3R Group, which oversaw the development of the industry’s scheme, welcomed the government’s announcement, but with reservations.

There is no doubt that this is a positive step forward in dealing with the more than five million tyres that reach their end of life each year in New Zealand,” said 3R Chief Executive Adele Rose, “however we are disappointed that these initiatives are not part of a wider product stewardship approach for tyres.”

If the National Party and Nick Smith are re-elected in September, we can only hope that their alternative scheme works and that New Zealand’s problem with end of life tyres is sorted. However, it seems that there are knowledgeable people in the industry who see it as, at best, only a partial solution and at worst a predictable failure.


Christine writes:

I understand that a % of car tyres is made from natural rubber the other is from synthetic rubber. The natural rubber vs synthetic rubber solution doesnt assist much either if the natural rubber requires destroying native forests and the synthetic rubber relies on fossil fuels .  Im not sure of the percentages ( possibly 50:50)  but it appears that the qualities of natural rubber are so unique that tyres in most motor vehicles  need a % of it to function as we want them to ( i.e. not like they are made out of wood). I think a greater % of synthetic rubber can go into heavy duty/truck etc.. tyres would need to check this.  Despite the existence of an international research consortium tasked with finding alternatives to natural rubber  ( including other crops that may grow in more temperate climates) massive areas of pristine Indonesian, Malaysian, African and South American  native forest are daily cut down to plant rubber trees so we can drive comfortably in our vehicles. The fact that rubber comes from a plant doesnt make it an intrinsically good source of the rubber we crave for our tyres. It is a Palm Oil situation of sorts ( Palm Oil vs Dairy both have a negative impact on the environment). Growing palm oil involves cutting down native forests if you dont do that due to consumer pressure producers ( e.g. of chocolate) put  dairy products back in which  involves polluting water resources. So there need to be alternatives both in production and consumption e.g.  eat less / no chocolate would be one as cocoa bean production also involves cutting down indigenous forests.

·        Drive less/ carless days. 2014 NZ Stats travel data : Car as driver = 6811 kms/person /yr , Cyclist = 70 kms/person/year. Jury out on cost – effectiveness of cycle ways

·       Burning rubber for cement works what are the air pollution issues at stake ?  regulations for affect on population etc..

·       Vastly Improved public transport + $$ ploughed into marketing for minimising car usage culture change car pick-ups from schools etc...

·       CCC charges $9/tyre for resident to dump at the Eco Depo

What’s happening in July 2017?

Harvesting. This month it’s yams, Jerusalem artichokes and Mashua. This is an aniseed flavoured yam and also makes a very attractive climber. We’re also replenishing the yam bed. The plan is to replace the loose brick sides with redundant concrete Fire Hydrant markers,  kindly donated by a local resident, and dig out the used soil. This will then be replaced by fresh compost which, of course,  we make on site.

Transplanting. Brassica seedlings; the more the merrier.

Online Shop. This is now up and running. Seeds are our first product but eventually this will expand to include our other products.

Globe Artichokes. After ours were dug up and stolen (!!!!)  we are looking for new plants. If you have any you could donate it would be much appreciated.

Tomatoes. We will be starting our tomato seeds this month. They will be kept indoors on a heat pad until they are about 2 to 3 cm and then go into the glasshouse under frost cloth.

New Potatoes. These will go into the ground at the end of the month.

Tree trimming. The two large Blue Cedar trees near the rear boundary will be trimmed this month, or so we have been assured by the CCC. Our neighbours will be pleased.

Ground Temperature. Christine measured the ground temperature on Tuesday 4th. It was 7.7 degrees Celsius at 10cm depth. In past years the July temperature has been around 6 degrees C, so a significantly higher reading this year. Will we get an early spring or does the Winter still have some bite? Don’t put your Winter Woolies away just yet.

Volunteers. Two new volunteers have joined us. Welcome.

What’s Happening in June 2017

World Environment Day (June 5th).

We will have Compost, native plants and plant pots to give away as well as a display on the theme of “Connect with Nature”

Matariki Market Day ( 17th June)

All the usual items for sale: Plants, preserves, baking etc.


It’s mostly Legumes this month: Peas and Broad Beans ready for a first crop in November.


Brassicas need a good bit of Lime. Getting it right is critical for good growth so we will be spreading the white stuff this month.


The last of our fruit trees will be getting their annual haircut.


Like breathing, you can’t have a garden without it.


This month we will be using a concentrated solution of Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) to combat fungal diseases. Not sure of its effectiveness against Myrtle Rust. Hopefully DOC’s efforts up North will be successful and it will never reach us.



Community Gardens Life

We are working hard at the moment making sure the community has some leafy greens to pick for winter. This involves planting, fertilising, mulching, protecting against birds and slugs and generally caring for the plants we raised from seed over late summer. While it is common courtesy to greet us while we work, when people don’t do this I sometimes wonder if they wish we were not present for a range of reasons. What we see on our security cameras after hours is mind boggling. Obvious attempts to ignore us or make eye contact in order to render us and them invisible are usually indicators that the person has no intention of buying into our cultural codes of conduct. More on that in a later post.

If you are not one of these people – the following does not apply to you. So read on friend of the Christchurch South Community Gardens.

It’s interesting how some people, will walk onto the gardens with a plastic bag in hand and either start picking crops without acknowledging the actual physical presence of people working on site (rude) or simply (and rather self-servingly)  assume we are there as mere labourers with no authority to comment on their actions (again, rude).

It is important that our work, role in the community and subsequently our authority to set the codes of conduct is respected. That is easier said than done in a trust-based economy which is one of the things that makes working in this setting so interesting. The issues raised in the Tragedy of the Commons can be very easily brought to bear and lead to talk of building a six foot high fence.

In doing so we would in my view be  buying into the notion that collective responsibility to share public resources fairly is an impossible dream and that self interest will cause people to exploit a freely available resource that is not policed.

When I discuss such issues it is common for some people to shrug and maintain that this is just ‘human nature’. I disagree. I maintain that most people are honest and do pay a reasonable sum for what they take, and take a modest amount for their needs but that those who don’t simply take the lion’s share and deprive us of much needed funds .

Most people are respectful in the way they use this resource and engage with us in many ways that raise our spirits.

Being the manager of a charitable trust that runs a community garden accessible to the community 24/7 can be quite a challenge. Some people see the gardens as either a “plunders paradise” (from petty theft to major burglary) and/or a place to dump and run (e.g. providers attempting to dump high needs clients , people dumping organic waste material that is so putrid that it has completely liquified, rotten sofas, broken BBQs and the like). More on attitudes to waste later.

While that group is in the minority, it is these people that take up most of our time time, cause us the biggest headaches and create the most damage to our sustainability and subsequent ability to provide services to the community.

We do not have unlimited funding and support from the state coffers to grow produce on an entirely voluntary basis for the community as well as run an effective resource centre, local waste processing service (24 tonnes p.a.), community education site (pre-school to PHD) and therapeutic centre.

I get asked quite often – what a lovely job you have – it must be so peaceful and cruisy  working here. As though all this happens as it would in some romantic fairy tale view of what an ideal community garden should be.


All of us not-for-profit managers in this sector are obliged to be the swan gliding on the lake for public relations purposes so the image of the service is not compromised and that people can have a nice peaceful look around the gardens – this is understandable.

However, swans also have a reputation for hissing and biting and flapping in order to protect that which they are driven to out of an inherent sense of value, not least because of the time and investment it took to create it.

Like any other non-profit organisation in the world, we have to write proposals for funding, keep a wide range of records, pay staff, support volunteers, put on fundraising events, engage with the community and monitor and evaluate outcomes. At the same time we are engaged in crop production and running a community nursery on a small horticultural  holding in the suburbs. We must provide legitimate reasons for our donors to keep us afloat and maintain stability so we can produce outputs and outcomes which contribute to our principle objective of supporting neighbourhood sustainability in the built environment.

We would love to meet people who would like to help us address these and the many other interesting and challenging issues faced on a suburban community garden. More later on participation, recycling, harvesting and neighborhood sustainability.