Redmond Clark, CEO of CBL Industrial Services, said not an enormous amount of attention is being paid to recycling or moving the EPA's hierarchy. It is more focused on getting problems out of the way, then letting the markets develop on their own.
He said there are a few “asteroids that are approaching this market.”
A new generation of environmental regulations will come into the tire manufacturing industry that are going to spill over into the tire recycling industry, Clark said. Additionally, some fundamental changes will impact the U.S. economy as well as the global economy.
“So when we talk about climate change, you have to understand that climate change really isn't just climate change,” Clark said.
“It is a recognition that sustainability now has got to be a part of every corporation's ethic in operations.”
Clark said the population is growing so much that a city the size of Chicago could be “built every three weeks for the next 35 years to keep up with what's already in the cards for population development.”
As the global middle class continues to rise, demand will increase on all the environmental systems, he said. Sustainability initiatives recognize that the world cannot tolerate growth as it is occurring and limits carbon fuel.
This will impact the tire manufacturing industry because carbon fuels are going to make for lighter cars, Clark said, which means the tires are going to last longer.
“It is going to change where tires go when they are done,” he added.
The supply side of the tire industry will be affected, as well as the waste disposal and recycling side.
Currently, about 57-60 million tires are being used for crumb rubber, domestically, Clark said, and of that, about 10 percent is being used in asphalt. He said other opportunities exist to push more rubber out of less green ways, such as disposing or burning applications, into more productive use.
“We have to find a way to make these systems work and find a way to get them adopted by a large number of states,” he said.
Clark said that learning what the customer wants is important. One large customer of the rubberized asphalt market is the state departments of transportation.
There are two processes for using crumb rubber in asphalt—a dry and a wet process. The wet process involves mixing the rubber in the liquid asphalt before it's mixed with the aggregate, and then it is treated, etc.
The dry process, known as the plant process, involves mixing the rubber and the asphalt together simultaneously. The mixture does not need to sit to digest any amount of time, Clark said.
With a wet process, he said, the higher the percentage of rubber, the stickier the product is, thus special equipment is needed to lay it down. However, if the amount of crumb rubber in the mix is reduced, standard application equipment can be used.
No special equipment is needed with the dry mix process, Clark said.
Clark said the days of wondering whether rubberized asphalt works are over. As long as some guidelines are followed, the compound will be successful.
“The markets … tell us what we're doing right, and what we're doing wrong,” he said.
For instance, the state DOTs can dictate what processes can be done on the roads. Clark said in California, the state has decided that rubber should be used in asphalt, period. Other states agree, while others have decided to let the market sort it out.
In 2006, Florida's DOT decided to use rubber in asphalt, Clark said. It recommended using the wet process, but rubber or a polymer-modified asphalt could be used. The program has worked well, he said.
“As far as Florida is concerned, the roads have been getting steadily better,” Clark added.
Users have begun to realize that rubber can be more difficult in the wet process. Whereas the mixture used to be 2/3 rubber and 1/3 polymer, those ratios were reversed in 2013.
This is why it is important to understand each market, Clark said. For instance, rubberized asphalt is performing better in Georgia, Clark said, but Georgia DOT is allowing the dry process to be used.