Kwik Fit owner buys Murfitts tyre recycling business

A pan-European tyre supply business, which includes the Kwik Fit retail chain, has acquired Murfitts Industries. Murfitts is one of the UK’s main tyre recycling companies and is also developing a pyrolysis process.

The Murfitts Industries plant in Lakenheath, Suffolk

European Tyre Enterprise Ltd (ETEL) today (20 December) announced that it had agreed the acquisition of Murfitts Industries, which has its main facility in Lakenheath, Suffolk. ETEL is ultimately owned by Japan’s Itochu Corporation and ETEL notes that it has annual sales of more than £1 billion across the UK and four European countries.

The purchase of the recycling and pyrolysis development business of Murfitts is seen as a significant move by a tyre distributor in terms of a move towards producer responsibility. As yet there is no formal producer responsibility requirement on tyre distributors or producers in the UK but these have been considered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

In the UK, besides Kwik-Fit, ETEL also owns the nationwide wholesale tyre distributor Stapleton’s Tyre Services. The acquisition sees ETEL acquire 100% ownership of Murfitts Group Ltd, the parent company of Murfitts Industries. Murfitts operates a national network recycling the equivalent of around 20 million car tyres per year, the company said.

Murfitts manufactures a variety of rubber granulate products by processing and repurposing post-consumer tyres which it collects from a wide range of tyre manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers across the UK.  Murfitts said it has been a long-term provider of post-consumer tyre collection and recycling services to ETEL.

The deal sees Kwik Fit-owner ETEL now have its own recycling/pyrolysis supplier outlet

Sustainable

Sean Tanaka, CEO of ETEL, said: “We have a long-standing relationship with Murfitts and even as separate companies our operations have been seamlessly connected, with joined up processes.  This acquisition makes clear strategic sense as we can bring the responsible collection, processing and re-manufacturing of tyre material under our own roof. This will ensure that customers, both retail and wholesale, can be confident that their used tyres are being processed in the most sustainable way possible.”

Murfitts explained that it has “invested significantly in its processes, developing a sophisticated system which enables it to recover the materials used in the production of tyres and repurpose them to manufacture innovative products. These are used in areas such as sports surfaces, pathways, children’s playgrounds, carpet underlay, modified asphalt and many other industrial applications. Products are of such high quality that they are exported to markets across the globe.”

(l-r) Sean Tanaka CEO of ETEL and Mark Murfitt MD of Murfitts sign the acquisition agreement

Referencing regulations around the disposal of post-consumer tyres, ETEL said that it had introduced processes “ahead of, and exceeding, UK regulatory requirements regarding the disposal of post-consumer tyres”, adding that “it has led the industry in developing audited and traceable systems to ensure tyres are being processed responsibly.  Recognising the global focus on the reduction of waste and the need to support the circular economy through the re-use of materials, Murfitts has also been investing in research and development to improve material recovery and reduce the use of natural resources.”

Pyrolysis

Murfitts explained that it has been developing proprietary pyrolysis technology, a thermochemical process used to decompose the tyre feedstock at high temperatures in a vacuum into various high-value recycled materials such as carbon black and recycled fuel oil. It says that this technology will help promote sustainability initiatives of the tyre industry by replacing one of major raw materials of tyres, carbon black, with a recycled product.

I wanted to partner with a company who fully understands the tyre industry

– Mark Murfitt, founder of Murfitt Industries

With its UK-wide collection and processing infrastructure in place, Murfitts has the ability to supply the consistent feedstock necessary for commercial-scale pyrolysis, the company said, with a note that becoming part of ETEL will help scale up these operations.

‘Natural step’

Mark Murfitt, founder of Murfitts Industries, remains as managing director. He said: “This is the natural next step for our company. Society is becoming increasingly focused on what happens to products once they have fulfilled their initial use, but this is something we have based our entire business on from day one. I wanted to partner with a company who fully understands the tyre industry and can really help continue to develop our operations, especially on scaling up the pyrolysis programme.  We are already seeing very promising results in this area which will be a game changer in reducing waste and recovering even more valuable raw material.”

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