Environment

New technology could lead to 50% increase in tire recycling

About a billion tires are discarded around the world each year despite demand exceeding supply
About a billion tires are discarded around the world each year despite demand exceeding supply
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About a billion tires are discarded around the world each year despite demand exceeding supply
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About a billion tires are discarded around the world each year despite demand exceeding supply
A new method of recycling being developed in Australia could reduce stockpiles of waste tires, which cause health and environmental hazards
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A new method of recycling being developed in Australia could reduce stockpiles of waste tires, which cause health and environmental hazards

May 11, 2009 A new method of recycling old tires to produce high-quality rubber powders for making new rubber products is being developed in Australia. Its developers say it is energy-efficient, economically viable and environmentally responsible, and they hope it will result in 50 per cent more tires being recycled.

CSIRO and VRTEK are working together on a proof of concept and prototype that cuts old tires into specific segments for reuse.

Crucially, this new process enables tires to be recycled without metal contamination. In the past, this has been one of the main reasons for the low number of tires being recycled.

CSIRO materials science and engineering scientist, who is leading the development team, Barrie Finnin says, “This is a very positive first step in a three-stage process.”

“The next two stages will involve devulcanisation and activation of rubber to produce the resultant high-quality rubber powders.”

The rubber powders, which will be down to 80–120 mesh size, could be used to produce new tires, elasto-polymer-based rubber products, industrial insulation, road pavement, industrial and domestic flooring or geo-textiles for retaining walls and embankments.

VR TEK managing director Michael Vainer says that “not only is there commercial potential for all these new products, but also, recycling rubber is a cheaper and more energy-efficient option than producing virgin materials.”

Tires are made to last a long time and are almost indestructible, yet about a billion of them are discarded worldwide each year. Disposal typically involves shredding, burning or dumping in landfill, all of which can lead to health and environmental problems such as toxic fires, leaching of chemicals into the soil and creating breeding grounds for vermin and pests.

With the growing affordability and popularity of cars, especially in countries such as India and China, global demand for rubber far exceeds supply, making the need for an economical and environmentally friendly recycling solution, such as this, all the more critical.

Karen Sprey

4 comments
olu
This is an exciting technology.Will do the world a lot of good. The technology will also be very useful in my part of the world. I will like to be kept informed of updates on this, especially when it becomes available for commercial use.
windykites
How about using old tyres for sea defense? Just stack them up and wire them together
3dz
I always thought tires would make a good building material. When you mentioned \"elasto-polymer-based rubber products,\". Could a polmer battery be made from this?
Robert Schreib
Dear Sirs, Why not create a two-birds-with-one-stone recycling project? If we have a lot of old tires, and a lot of discarded plastic trash, what if we combine them into something useful? OK, this option would require a LOT of physical labor, but, look, the American prison system is BROKEN, so, let's 'draft' millions of prisoners, into a new 'Green Ants Army division, that specializes in cleaning up after natural disasters, planting millions of new trees, and doing the heavy lifting, of recycling these old tires and trashed plastic items into this new product, a 'Stuffed Doughnut'. which would be used as insulative 'Earth Ship' cheap wall making parts, and as floatation devices. There is a floating cities project, which the United Nations is planning, because global warming, is rising the oceans over many populated coastlines, and these millions of new 'Climate Refugees' have to live somewhere! They could also be used to make vast rafts, ACRES of them, to float in the oceans, to use as floating gardens to provide food crops. Or, they could be made into a type of 'Pelamis', which is an electrical generation device, that floats in the ocean, and converts the energy of waves into free, clean electrical power. This could be done by packing the interiors of discarded automobile tires with trashed plastic bottles, and packing shredded plastic trash between these bottles, and then using a giant microwave device, within a machine that compresses the whole thing densely, to create inner heat in it, that melts and fuses everything into a solid unit. Further, tires could be cut up into section, to be stuffed with plastic and inserted in the middle holes of these tires, to make a big round tablet, that floats, and could be used a thermally insulative part of walls in 'Earth Ship' designed cheap housing, In the poorest nations on Earth. And, recently, www.formlabs.com created a 3D Product Printing system, that manufactures CHEAP Fresnel lenses. Fresnel lenses are sheets of transparent plastic, with concentric rings in them, that can focus sunlight into a concentrated point, hot enough to melt metals, a kind of giant magnifying glass, only a lot lighter and cheaper. If we made the floating Palamis out of these recycled tires, it should be possible to install these cheap Fresnel lenses, inside these tires empty central holes, so that they can focus the sunlight hot sunlight hitting the oceans, into various devices, that can use that intense heat, to boil sea water into steam, to be recycled into clean drinking water. The same thing might be used to empower other devices, that extract sea salt, or valuable minerals and metals and even uranium, from the ocean water. I think that I recall a an old project, which involved a Fresnel lenses that makes electrical power, from BOTH the heat and light parts of sunlight, by focusing that intense sunlight onto a special solar heat that could actually take that great heat, which would be recycled from under it, but I am not sure where I saw that article, years ago. That covers it.