Tech developed to recycle scrap rubber into high-quality plastic

It’s reckoned that most of the 22 million tons of rubber that is processed every year worldwide goes into making vehicle tires and that once rubber products reach the end of their useful lives, for the most part they end up being incinerated. Even when the rubber residues are reclaimed and re-used to make new products, the lack of techniques for producing high-quality materials means that the recyclables are relegated to secondary products such as arena or playground floor coverings or padded doormats.

Looking for new ways to optimize the recycling of rubber waste, researchers have developed a material called EPMT that has the desired material properties and characteristics for use in the manufacture of high quality products such as wheel and splashguard covers, handles, knobs and steerable castors.

Holger Wack, Damian Hintemann and Nina Kloster from the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen, Germany, have so far developed three basic elastomer powder modified thermoplastics (EPMT) recipes and have formed a new company named RUHR Compounds to bring EPMT to market…

Machines currently used by the researchers are capable of producing up to 350 kg (770 pounds) of EPMT every hour and individual material properties like elasticity, breaking strain and hardness can be modified according to the need of the customer…

The new compounds can contain up to 80 percent residual rubber and the researchers claim that EPMT can be easily processed in injection molding and extrusion machines. EPMT used in the manufacture of new products can itself be recycled again when those products reach the end of their useful life.

Scrap tires are the bane of arroyos and vacant land in rural America. There have been so few useful schemes which consume these leftovers of our fossil-fueled society, there is always some slothful creep dumping worn-out tires someplace they hope won’t be noticed for a while.

If re-use is possible on an economic scale through this process – every rubber-tired nation will benefit.

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