According to the Innovation for Sustainable Development Network, in 2011 it was estimated that 60 million used tyres could be found on South African soil – more tyres than people. With a recycling rate at the time as low as 4%, it was clear that this would impact the economy, cause further damage to the environment, and have an effect on public health.
In 2012, the government of South Africa approved a tyre waste management plan and established an infrastructure for tyre collection and downcycling. In this process, waste tyres are transported to processing centres where they are turned into new products or energy. Today, the rate of tyre recycling has increased from 4% to over 60%. Instead of dumping them onto land refills, they are recycled into many interesting, innovative, and creative ways.
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The Many Ways Tyres Are Recycled
- The Mathe Group is a leader in tyre recycling in South Africa. Its manufacturing plant in Hammarsdale runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, producing tons of rubber products, from powder and granules to chippings and mulch. These products are then used for a wide variety of applications such as moulded dustbins to road resurfacing.
- Van Dyck Carpets recycle tyres by crushing it into rubber ‘powder’, which is mixed with latex to form carpet backings. Besides being kinder to the planet, the recycled rubber crumb is more user-friendly. With this technology, Van Dyck have managed to do away with hazardous plastic and felt materials completely.
- “Cubic 38 was founded with the main purpose of creating eco-friendly alternatives from waste tyres.” Young entrepreneur, Mzokhona Maxase and his business partner, Tshepo Sithole, established a business that specialises in creating shine and shoe polish products from by-products of recycled tyres.
- Green Distillation Technologies recycles old tyres into valuable oil, carbon and steel. The volume of valuable recyclable material produced by the process is impressive, for instance:
- A typical 10 kg car tyre will yield 4 litres of oil, 4kg of carbon, 2kg of steel.
- A 70kg truck tyre will provide 27 litres of oil, 28 kg of carbon, 15 kg of steel.
- A 4-tonne oversize mining dump truck tyre will yield 1.6 tonnes of carbon, 0.8 tonne of steel and 1500 litres of oil.
Image credit: GDT
- In November 2019, the CSIR in partnership with Much Asphalt, constructed South Africa’s first stretch of road made from a recycled tyre blend. The 200m trial road was constructed in Roodepoort which has proven to be a success which could soon see South Africa adopt a new type of road using recycled tyres and locally-mined products – a cheaper alternative to expensive imported polymers.
Photo credit: CSIR
Other examples where waste tyres are used:
- Playgrounds, parks, athletic tracks, and sports fields made from rubber crumb are low maintenance and durable while also helping to reduce injuries due to its ability to absorb impact better than hard tar surfaces.
- Asbestos-free brake shoes can be made from tyre rubber crumbs. These have the advantage of less noise and due to its heat resistance reduces wear and tear.
- New passenger tyres can be manufactured from recycled tyres by mixing recycled rubber with uncured rubber. This saves on raw materials and makes for a less expensive tyre.
- Insulation in buildings such as under flooring and in walls can be manufactured using rubber granules and polyurethane binder.
- Whole tyres are used to build walls for houses and other structures, generally known as earthships.
- Raw materials like oil, carbon, and steel.
- Household and garden items such as furniture, rugs, mats, pot planters, decorations, toys, and these amazing sculptures – each taking anywhere from 100 – 400 tyres and up to a month to complete!
- Fashion accessories like belts, handbags, footwear, clothing and jewellery.
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South Africa generates more waste tyres than all the other Southern African countries put together, making it a good market for tyre recycling. Imagine that to create artificial turf the size of an Olympic-sized stadium takes 42,000 recycled tyres, and a running track can take up to 13,500 tyres to create. Making use of the tyre recycling innovation and technologies available to us will go a long way towards a more sustainable future.
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- The Anatomy of a Passenger Tyre – What are you paying for?
- A Guide to Retread Tyres
- Tyre Buying Guide – What You Should Know
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