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Scrap Tyres Come Under Research Spotlight

5 April 2002

A West Auckland tyre recycling company is addressing the problem of the country's scrap tyres, and they believe they may have hit on a way to break into new markets within New Zealand, while reducing reliance on imported scrap rubber.

For the past five years, Jim Laughton's Shredding Services has been recycling the central Northern region's cast-off tyres. Scrap tyres are shredded, chipped then granulated into various sizes for a variety of uses including horse arena rubber, boxing bag fillers and drainage. Twelve thousand scrap tyres were used for bullet absorption and retention in the NZ Defence rifle range in Ardmore.

And, in an odd quirk, the company received 50 tonnes of old rubber running track from Mt Smart Stadium to recycle, but was unable to supply the replacement surface, because they lacked the technology to process scrap rubber into fine granule (crumb rubber) product that local manufacturers could use.

"It's ironic that we are importing someone else's scrap tyres, in powder form, to use in local manufacture. We decided to carry out some research to see if we could develop a prototype machine that would process our relatively small amount of scrap tyres efficiently and to the right specifications," says Mr Laughton.

The company has embarked on its first ever research programme, assisted with a $42,000 grant from Technology New Zealand's Grants for Private Sector Research and Development (GPSRD) scheme, part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

John Gibson, Investment Manager of the GPSRD fund, says the research programme is a 'magic example of a company looking to get higher value out of its products and processes.'

"We are very keen to support companies who can sense an opportunity to grow their businesses through innovation. In this case, it has an added benefit of getting to grips with what is an environmentally sensitive problem," he says.

Mr Laughton says the company already had the technology to process chip rubber, but to go that next step it needed to refine its cleaning and granulation processes. "We knew if we could get those factors right, then there was good potential to expand our domestic market," he says.

The initial R&D is likely to be finished mid year and, if it proves successful, Mr Laughton believes it will allow New Zealand matting manufacturers to use local, and not imported, product in matting and sports arenas. He believes there is huge potential to follow the Australians in their 60 years experience with mixing recycled rubber with bitumen into roading, with its advantages of improved aggregate retention and reduction in road fatigue and noise.


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