Tire recycling turns new corner for Environmental Waste International
In a 10,000 ft2 pilot plant under the smoke stacks of a steel plant in northern Ontario technicians and scientists are fine-tuning an industrial microwave technology to recycle tires into their constituents: steel, oil and carbon black, offering an ecological solution to a problem as old as the automotive industry.
North America discards 300 million tires annually. Worldwide over 1 billion tires. which are produced from 450 tire manufacturing plants cause a huge disposal issue.
For many years scrap tires have been accumulating in landfills, illegal stockpiles, vacant lots, fields, abandoned buildings and roadsides. These stockpiles can pose a serious threat to public health and safety, as well as to the environment.
Going against the trend since 1994, Environmental Wastes International (TSXV: EWS) has focused on breaking down tires into their constituents rather than burning or shredding them into crumbs for specialty materials, where the market is already saturated.
By far EWS isn’t the first company to see a business opportunity from tire recycling. The history of tire recycling goes back more than a hundred years to a time when rubber was a scarce commodity. In 1910, an ounce of rubber cost the same as an ounce of silver. But over time cheap imported oil displaced natural rubber. This reduced the value of recycled rubber and made it less cost-effective. Another reason is that steel belted radials made recycling more complicated and so the new tires became scrap tires that were extremely resilient and therefore extremely difficult and expensive to recycle.
But EWS developed a patent-protected process called Reverse Polymerization, which accomplishes the opposite of tire making: Instead of heating oil, carbon black, steel and nylon to form a tire, the process heats the tire to deconstruct it into its original constituents: depolymerisation (minus the nylon). Each tire so depolymerized saves 14 kg of CO2 emissions.
Get our daily investorintel update
Simplicity is a good thing for cleantech companies. I visited EWS’s pilot plant in November 2013 to get a feel for the technology. With carbon black underfoot, I was struck by the simplicity of the equipment: Imagine a microwave oven connected to the business end of a vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner part serves for the recovery, condensation and routing of the oil into storage tanks.
CEO Dr Daniel Kaute: “After more than 20 years we now have a robust technical solution for microwave assisted recycling of tires.. We have been able to run our pilot plant with a nameplate capacity of 900 tires per day for periods of 100 hours without interruption, therefore doubling our previous achievement of 50 hours run in June 2013. This means we are now ready for continuous operation.”
EWS is now targeting long-term commercial relationships with users of the depolymerisation products and is met with worldwide interest.
Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>