Carbon Green, Inc., a tire recycling company with administrative offices in Canada, is pushing into the tire recycling market with a rather intriguing entry: a tire recycling method based on pyrolysis. The company has been gearing up to process about 800,000 tires in the first year of operation for its new recycling plant in Cyprus. The ambitious plans include opening a string of facilities in North America and Europe by 2015, and eventually moving its headquarters from its current location in Slovakia to North America.
The use of pyrolysis by Carbon Green comes as something of a surprise because pyrolysis has not been considered to be a commercially viable tire recycling method, at least not until now. However, Carbon Green claims that its newly patented process is unique, and it has a couple of advantages that would help it achieve bottom-line success.
Pyrolysis and Tire Recycling
Pyrolysis is a thermal process that takes place in the absence of oxygen. It decomposes organic materials into oils, gases, and char (the solid material left over when gases and oils are driven out). When applied to scrap tires, pyrolysis yields steel, oil, and carbon black, which is used to reinforce rubber and is also used in inks, toner, and paint. The U.S. EPA has been pushing the development of carbon black recovery from recycled tires because it is a high value product that could potentially make pyrolysis more economical, but there have been other obstacles such as high operating costs and the limited value of recovered materials compared to virgin materials.
Carbon Green and Carbon Black
Carbon Green is pursuing the carbon black angle, by processing char into a nanoparticle material that meets EU standards for a carbon black substitute. The company also claims that its recovered steel is commercial grade. In addition, Carbon Green claims that its process recovers oil that is the equivalent of #2 diesel oil, which can be used to generate electricity, along with a clean-burning syngas that can power the recycling facilities or be sold for carbon credits. With an estimated 10 billion scrap tires stockpiled globally and another billion coming into the waste stream every year, Carbon Green certainly will not lack for feedstock.
The Brave New World of Tire Recycling
Carbon Green may have a lock on commercially viable pyrolysis, at least for now, but the future of tire recycling also looks bright for a number of other companies that have come up with their own alternative tire recycling methods, including a deep freeze tire recycling process that yields a high quality powder. That’s to say nothing of tires made from corncobs, switchgrass and other rubber alternatives that could be recycled or reclaimed through less complex and expensive processes.
Image: Tire fire by Carly & Art on flickr.com.