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Recycling Rubber Waste

We hear a lot in the news about the importance of recycling plastic - but in reality, we need to look at the bigger picture to understand the need to recycle all sorts of products.

Everyone must be on board with recycling, as it's one of the best ways for us to have a positive impact on the planet. We need to act fast, as the volume of waste the human race produces is increasing all the time. The population is growing, we're buying more products and subsequently creating more waste.

Rubber is a crucial resource that the global community is targeting to achieve improvements in sustainability. There are more than 25 different generic types of rubber including natural rubber, nitrile, EPDM rubber, fluorocarbon, silicone and many more.

Rubber tyres

© Budimir Jevtic / Adobe Stock

 

Tyre manufacture

While rubber is used to manufacture many products such as seals, gaskets and hoses, to name but a few, no single product dominates the market in the same way that tyres do.

There are around 1.1 billion vehicles on the road worldwide, generating more than one billion waste tyres every year. More than 3.2 million tonnes of used tyres are generated annually in Europe, including more than 486,000 tonnes in the UK.

Around 87% of used tyres are diverted from landfill sites across Europe. The figure includes 34% that are recycled and 32% that are incinerated, providing energy. The remainder are sent for re-treading.

The European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers' Association believes the amount of rubber taken to landfill sites will decrease further in the future. New schemes will promote increased producer responsibility, whereby tyre manufacturers will be required to contribute towards the recycling of old tyres.

A combination of participation, proactive recycling and creating successful partnerships, supported by many organisations across the tyre and reprocessing industries, will be critical to the success of the UK's continued rubber recycling programme.

 

Football pitches

Rubber can be recycled into many different items, including football pitches. English Premier League football club Manchester United formed a partnership with Apollo Tyres, a manufacturer and distributor whose headquarters are in India, to recycle tyres into pitches.

The local community football pitches are being built across the UK and in India. The first pitch is being built within Manchester United's Old Trafford ground, before being rolled out to the wider community.

The same idea is also being used in Australia, where rubber from old UK tyres has been transformed into football pitches in Melbourne. Murfitts Industries, a Suffolk-based manufacturer of rubber granules to make artificial sports pitches, shipped more than 300 tonnes of its recycled rubber product to Australia.

Tiger Turf Australia, an artificial turf manufacturer, is laying two football pitches in east Melbourne for Monbulk Rangers Soccer Club. The pitches will cover an area of 19,000 square metres. The surface will be compliant with FIFA regulations, so it can be used for training and senior level competitive matches.

 

Gravel substitute

Recycled rubber can be used as a substitute for gravel in the building trade. It can provide sub-layers for roadways, backfill for highway embankments and an aggregate for drainage ditches. Using rubber tyre chips under the roads in cold climates can limit the ability of frost to penetrate the ground.

Rubber chippings are almost three times as light as gravel. This produces significant savings in terms of transport costs, labour, equipment costs and time.

Tyre chips can also be used under light rail tracks that run alongside homes and businesses, as they can reduce the vibration and noise from passing trains.

 

Landfill sites

Instead of rubber being dumped at landfill sites, it can be recycled to serve a useful function there instead. Chipped or shredded tyres can be used as both a cover and a liner for landfills. They provide a layer of thermal insulation between the primary and secondary liners.

Rubber chips also offer a useful alternative to coal or incinerator ash, since they are permeable. The shredded tyres can provide a cost-effective and efficient landscaping medium at landfill sites.

 

Crumb rubber

When waste tyres are recycled into very finely-ground rubber, it is known as crumb rubber. The steel and tyre cords are removed from the used tyres and the rubber is ground into a consistency resembling small granules.

Crumb rubber can be made into rubberised asphalt, which can create safe and durable playground flooring and running tracks. It can also be used to create anti-fatigue mats, welcome mats and vehicle mud guards.

 

Garden mulch

Some gardeners are using recycled tyre chippings for garden mulch. It has several benefits over traditional mulch, in that it retains its appearance over time and is heavy enough not to float away during heavy rain.

Rubber mulch doesn't rot in the same way as wood mulch rots. In addition, tyre chips won't fall victim to termites and wood-boring insects that might otherwise infest your garden.

 

Wastewater treatment

Rubber tyre chippings can be shredded into a uniform and specific size, enabling them to be used in filters at wastewater treatment plants and constructed wetlands.

Tyres often serve as a better medium for wastewater treatment filters than other materials, such as rocks and organic compounds, as they are less porous when chipped.

 

Fuel

Tyre-derived-fuel (TDF) is a type of fuel made from all kinds of scrap tyres. The whole tyre can be used, or parts of tyres processed into smaller, uniform pieces, depending on the kind of combustion unit.

TDF fuel has lower emissions than other traditional fuels. A study in 2009 concluded that with proper emission controls, the burning of tyres to provide fuel energy could be an "environmentally sound" means of disposing of rubber waste.

 

Benefits of rubber recycling

One of the main benefits of recycling is that it reduces the amount of natural resources that we use. It also helps to prevent pollution, as bringing tyres into a recycling facility means they're not dumped in areas where they cause environmental problems, such as on river banks and in lakes.

The Environmental Protection Agency points out that reclaiming or recycling rubber uses less energy than it does to produce new rubber. It also reduces the demand for new natural rubber, which means rubber plantations don't need to expand into more natural habitats to satisfy consumer demand.

 

Future of recycled rubber

Experiments into making rubber road surfaces began in the 20th century in Akron, Ohio - known as the "rubber capital of the world". The CEO of Goodyear Tyres, Paul Litchfield, launched the scheme, donating the rubber for the pilot tests.

A section of Exchange Street in Akron was paved with the new compound, made of asphalt mixed with rubber. Not only does the surface repel water, but it also creates a more durable and crack-resistant highway.

Following the success of the road in Akron, other rubber roads have sprung up in Phoenix, Arizona, Florida, California and Texas. The surface also creates a noise reduction of 3dB, which can be beneficial for neighbours of busy highways.

Some individual tyre companies are actively supporting recycling schemes. Michelin has announced a sustainability plan aimed at manufacturing tyres using 80% sustainable materials and also recycling 100% of its tyres by 2048.

Coruba is a leading UK provider of top-quality rubber matting and other rubber products. For enquiries, please call 01702 560194 or use our handy online contact form.



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