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Wednesday , 29 May 2024

Recycling tyres to construct roads and highways

Over a billion used tyres are disposed off every year all over the world. They are either burnt or dumped into landfills. The ways adopted are often unfriendly to environment and lead to toxic fumes being released in the air which further poses a huge risk to life. It can also cause fire. But a new tyre technology promises to change all this. Developed by VR TEK Global Pty Ltd of Australia, the new technology helps in processing the recycled tyres into metal-free high value devulcanised and activated rubber powders which can be used in the construction of roads and railways. These powders can also be used in the manufacture of new tyres and other high quality rubber products such as automotive components and conveyor belts, as well as high-quality, high-value elasto-polymer and thermoplastic composite materials. Compared to this, the existing recycling methods give low value derivatives as their end products.

Current recycling methods in the industry include combustion, pyrolysis, cryogenics, regeneration and rubber crumbling. Combustion involves burning of tyres as fuel while pyrolysis heats the tyres resulting in the breakdown of the rubber. Cryogenics freezes tyres to temperatures cold enough to make them brittle and then smashes them to small pieces while regeneration involves sticking small rubber particles to form a new product. Rubber crumbling grinds tyres into small pieces. But all these methods, besides posing a grave environmental risk by releasing toxic fumes and consuming large amounts of energy, do not yield much of good quality reusable rubber. As against this, the new tyre recycling process uses an energy efficient segmentation technology which begins by separating the end-of-life tyres into specific segments. These two segments are then subjected to two different processes: Devulcanisation and activation. The company’s devulcanisation process uses an extrusion-type technology to produce metal-free devulcanised rubber powders of size 15 mesh, 30 mesh, 60 mesh and 100 mesh. Their activation process uses an ozone-based technology to produce metal-free activated rubber powders with functional groups enabling them to be utilised within composite materials.

VR TEK Global’s recycling technology is especially relevant to India’s road construction and new railway projects. The recycled products can be used in road construction projects as high grade bitumen asphalt modifiers, and in railway construction projects as a high grade ingredient for the formation of rubber/plastic composite sleepers.

Although other tyre recycling techniques such as Pyrolysis are currently used in India, the new tyre technology with its high yield of reusable rubber as a high quality ingredient that can act as a substitute for natural rubber, has its own advantages.

VR TEK Global Pty Ltd was a part of Australia’s Victorian State Government Ceantech Trade Mission that recently visited India to assist Victorian companies in connecting and engaging with their Indian counterparts through the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade). VR TEK Global’s recycling technology is especially relevant to India’s road construction and new railway projects. The end products of the technology can be used in road construction projects as high grade bitumen asphalt modifiers utilising the 30 mesh to 100 mesh devulcanised rubber powders. This will increase road longevity by enabling the asphalt to expand and contract with different weather conditions, and using the 15 mesh to 30 mesh devulcanised rubber powders as additives for underlying sub-grade bitumen asphalt. In railway construction projects, the recycled products can be used as high grade ingredients for the formation of rubber/plastic composite sleepers utilising the 30 mesh to 100 mesh activated rubber powders, as well as the 15 mesh to 30 mesh devulcanised rubber powders as additives for the underlying sub-grade of the rail track.

The development of the company’s recycling technology was set in motion in 2006 by the company’s founders Michael Vainer and Boris Rozenblit. According to Michael Vainer, although other tyre recycling techniques such as Pyrolysis are currently used in India, VR TEK Global’s technology, with its high yield of reusable rubber as a high quality ingredient which can act as a substitute for natural rubber, has its own advantages especially with the world hitting peak-rubber last year and the price of natural rubber continuing to rise. Vainer opines that the US Environmental Protection Authority had already indicated a ban on the usage of tyres for fuel which could be soon followed by similar bans worldwide.

 

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