Feasibility studies are to be conducted to test at least two commercial proposals designed to rid Perth of its growing mountain of used tyres.
State Development Minister Ian Taylor said today 25 companies had responded to his department's invitation for submissions to solve the problem and of these, four had been short-listed as having outstanding merit.
"The selection panel representing the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Western Australian Municipal Association, Health Department and the Department of State Development, will now be meeting in January to make their final choice," Mr Taylor said.
"But because the standard of the submissions is so high, I expect at least two of them will be subject to a detailed, independent feasibility study."
Mr Taylor said the number of potentially viable suggestions put forward had come as a surprise.
"Frankly, we had only expected a handful of proposals, but what we received was a clear demonstration that local industry is extremely adaptable and well capable of coming up with new ideas," he said.
Mr Taylor said the four proposals short-listed involved either turning the tyres into a new source of energy; or breaking them down to recover their constituent parts, like rubber, steel and fibre.
"Importantly, each proposal is designed to use existing technology - and to do so without causing more damage to the environment," he said.
"Each proposal we are looking at will also be funded privately. The only real Government input likely to be necessary is a change in regulations affecting the disposal of tyres into landfills."
Mr Taylor said used tyres today represent a major environmental hazard.
"We have already experienced the effects of a tyre dump fire, and we cannot afford any repeats," he said.
Mr Taylor said the four major proposals short-listed offered a solution for disposing of the 500,000 used tyres which accumulate in Perth every year.
"Some of the other suggestions put to us involved ideas for recycling much smaller numbers and although they would not solve Perth's larger problem, nonetheless they have considerable merit," he said.
"For example, Workpower, a charity group working with the handicapped, wanted to access a particular type of tyre to make rubber mats and I would be more than happy to see that proposal go ahead.
"Another company wanted to use tyres as part of the structure of a new form of rammed earth housing.
"I would be quite prepared to see that concept adopted too - subject to agreement with the appropriate local government authorities."
Mr Taylor said the feasibility studies for the large scale proposals would be completed by about March.
"That means that with the appropriate planning and environmental approvals, we should see a used tyre recycling plant in operation within six to 12 months," he said.