TORONTO (Oct. 26, 2012)—A Georgia tire recycler and off-the-road tire engineer said he has found a way to break tires down into usable carbon black, oil and steel, even as other speakers at the 2012 Rubber Recycling Symposium in Toronto said they had yet to see such processes become commercially viable.
Fred Taylor, president of Green Carbon L.L.C. and OTR Wheel Engineering in Rome, Ga., said the hybrid recycling process he and his team developed can break down tires of any size.
“What can you do about end-of-life tires?” Taylor said in his presentation at the conference. “We put together a research and development team to develop green carbon products.”
Green Carbon's technique processes the whole tire, with automatic separation of carbon black, oil, gas and steel, according to Taylor.
Unlike pyrolysis, which destroys the structure of carbon black and turns it into char, Green Carbon's process creates carbon black that can be incorporated into tire manufacturing, he said. An average passenger tire can produce 7.5 pounds of carbon black under the Green Carbon process, he said.
The Green Carbon recycling process also creates a gas from scrap tires that generates 88 percent of the energy the process needs, according to Taylor. Including the carbon black and oil, the process creates eight times more energy than it consumes, he said.
Green Carbon has taken its process to several laboratories—including Smithers RAPRA Inc. and Akron Rubber Development Laboratory Inc.—to make sure it is both technologically sound and environmentally sustainable, according to Taylor. His power point presentation included testimonials from testing officials as to the usefulness and potential of the process.
In various tests, Green Carbon has found it can make off-the-road tires with a recycled carbon black content of 20 percent, according to Taylor.
Rather than centralize scrap tire processing, however, Green Carbon's business model is to build tire processing plants adjacent to customers' production facilities, each processing plant averaging about 5,000 sq. ft. apiece. “We go to where the hydrocarbon source is,” he said.
Currently, Green Carbon is negotiating with two major Canadian mining companies to establish OTR tire processing facilities at their headquarters, Taylor said.
Although the Green Carbon process differs from pyrolysis, it shares the goal of breaking down tires into their component parts for reuse.
Pyrolysis has been a part of tire recycling in various iterations for more than 20 years, said Michael Blumenthal, vice president of the Rubber Manufacturers Association, and Jeffrey Kendall, CEO of Liberty Tire Recycling.
“There's a growing interest in tire pyrolysis,” Blumenthal said. “It's been around as long as I have, but don't mistake motion for action.
“We will never say this cannot work, but the question is, 'Can you do it in a commercially viable fashion?' So far, this has not happened,” he said.
Kendall agreed that interest in pyrolysis remains strong, despite the lack of commercial success.
“We're talking to 34 different people about pyrolysis,” Kendall said.