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Recycling tyres into the built environment

Recycling tyres into the built environment

Three Scion research projects to recycle waste tyres into useful products are making good progress with investment from the Government’s Waste Minimisation Fund (WMF).

Around 5 million tyres are disposed of each year in New Zealand. Some 30 per cent of these end-of-life tyres are recycled, but 70 per cent end up in our landfills or are illegally dumped. Apart from the enormous pressure placed on landfill space, getting rid of waste tyres is costly, and stockpiles of tyres are a fire hazard.

“Finding solutions to this environmental challenge is well within our research capabilities and results are already very promising,” says Elspeth MacRae, General Manager Manufacturing and Bioproducts at Scion.

The WMF has invested $460,550 across Scion’s projects. The largest project, receiving $182,550, is investigating the feasibility of using extrusion technology to devulcanise tyre rubber so that it can be used as a raw material in certain industries, such as plastics and roading.

Dr MacRae says, if successful, this project will provide an economic base to grow the market for crumbed rubber in New Zealand.

“Basically, our scientists want to undo the vulcanising process that converts raw rubber into hard, durable tyres. We aim to develop an extrusion process, based on equipment currently available, to revert the cross-linked structure of tyre rubber. Then we will assess how the devulcanised crumbed rubber can be applied as a high-performance road binder or as an additive or filler in thermoplastics.”

Another project aims to recycle crumbed rubber into high-value acoustic building products via a processing facility in New Zealand. Receiving $178,000 from the WMF, this project is looking at the best ways to incorporate waste rubber into building products, such as flooring, to provide a sound barrier.

The third project, with a $100,000 investment from the WMF, aims to use crumb rubber in the manufacture of wood panels for acoustic and vibration damping properties.

Scion is working with commercial partners on all three projects to ensure the work done in the laboratories will be commercially feasible.

More information on funded projects tackling end-of-life tyres can be found on the Ministry for the Environment’s website athttp://www.mfe.govt.nz/more/funding/waste-minimisation-fund-funded-projects

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