Need to boost reclaimed rubber use
By Pramod Thomas:
Reclaimed rubber has manufacturing and product benefits. It also ensures long term business sustainability due to energy efficiency and stability in price. Besides it has environmental sustainability as when we use it natural resources are conserved and also reduces CO2 emissions
Post-consumer waste, which includes tyres, is a global problem. Unless we take responsibility, it will become unmanageable. But there are responsible ways of treating end-of-life tyres; reclaimed rubber is one such way.
In the recently concluded National Rubber Conference (2017 Rubcon) organised by Indian Rubber Board at the Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII), Kottayam, Kerala premises, Gujarat Reclaim and Rubber Products Limited (GRP Limited) Managing Director Rajendra Gandhi talked in detail about reclaimed rubber.
In his technical presentation on ‘Use of reclaimed rubber in Indian rubber industry’, Gandhi gave a detailed profile of the reclaimed rubber industry and the role it plays in the environmental sustainability. He also emphasised the urgent need for Research and Development and diversification in the sector.
Established in 1974, GRP Limited is the pioneers in the reclaimed rubber sector. The company is among the most recognised manufacturer of reclaimed rubber from used tyres, upscaled polyamide from nylon waste and engineered products die-cut from end-of- life tyres. The company operates in four business verticals-Reclaim Rubber, Industrial Polymers, Custom Die Forms and Retreading- with seven manufacturing units across India with an installed capacity to handle 75,000 MT per annum to service the needs of the global polymer industry and help save valuable resources of the planet.
Rajendra Gandhi said that reclaimed rubber is recognised as the third source of rubber after Natural Rubber and Synthetic Rubber. While explaining the process, he said that partially de-vulcanised rubber produced by treatment (mechanical or chemical) of ground rubber. The de-vulcanisation permits the product to be compounded, processed and re-vulcanised.
Faster growth expected
“Reclaimed rubber has manufacturing and product benefits. It also ensures long term business sustainability due to energy efficiency and stability in price. Besides it has environmental sustainability as when we use it natural resources are conserved and also reduces CO2 emissions. The energy required to manufacture per kilogram of tyre is 11.7 MJ/kg whereas the greenhouse emission is 1.9 KgCO2/kg. For synthetic rubber the energy required for production is 145 MJ/kg and it emits 5 KgCO2/kg of greenhouse gas. Intterestingly, for reclaimed rubber the greenhouse emission is only 0.1 KgCO2/kg and the total energy required for production is 2.1 MJ/kg,” Gandhi said.
He opined that recaimed rubber is expected to grow slightly faster than Natural Rubber and Synthetic Rubber in the future.
According to GRP estimates, the reclaimed rubber usage as a percentage of polymers in different products are: roofing (35 per cent),auto tubes (40 per cent), adhesives (20 per cent), belting (15 per cent), auto profiles (10 per cent), OHT tyres (10 per cent), two-wheeler tyres (10 per cent) and auto tyres (four per cent).
The global estimates pertaining to reclaimed rubber towards environmental sustainability include; stopping end of life tyres (ELT) from reaching landfills (50 million tyres in 2016 alone), reducing virgin polymer requirement by 3500 KT in last five years and strengthening CSR agenda of rubber consuming companies. The efforts were also successful in reducing CO2 emissions due to reduced energy usage, Gandhi pointed out.
He lauded the efforts by corporates in using recycled material. He is of the opinion that there is growing adoption of reclaimed rubber by major global companies. Bridgestone, Michelin, Continental, Pirelli, Toyota, Timberland and Toyoda Gosei are setting examples in this regard.
“Bridgestone’s 2020 vision envisages higher use of recycled rubber. This includes three plans of action: reduce raw material consumption, recycle resources and use it effectively and expand and diversify renewable resources. The second action plan also highlights usage of retread technology and services, non-pneumatic tyre and recycled rubber. Pirelli also has a mechanism in place to use ELT. Footwear major Timberland also keeps on increasing usage of recycled materials for the production of footwears. In 2013, the company used 87.90 per cent of eco-conscious recycled materials in its products,” R V Gandhi explained.
But a collaborative approach can only save mother earth. Now, product manufacturers and reclaimed rubber producers are on their own. The limitations are there are not enough new applications and less than optimum usage due to fear. Gandhi pointed out that collaboration between the stakeholders will compress timelines for availability of new reclaims and it will also ensure ‘fit’ with actual customer requirement.
GRP’s Model of Collaboration has an objective to create an ‘infinite-loop’ of joint-development using GRP’s understanding of Reclaim Rubber and Customer’s Product Technology Expertise to build a long term sustainable business for both organizations. It includes- Joint R and D Projects for improving properties; widening usage; new applications Influencing automotive manufacturers through customers to ‘support’ reclaim rubber usage in vehicle parts to increase ‘green’ content in vehicles and buy-back and processing of process waste.
“Recycling of post consumer waste, includes, tyres, need sustainable solutions. Reclaimed rubber is one such value-added option being successfully used by rubber products manufacturers. The benefits of this practice include cost reduction, processing aid, sustainable business. However, full benefits of usage can be realised only by active collaboration between supplier – buyer R and D teams to enhance usage,” he concluded.