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WHAT IS RECYCLED RUBBER?

Rubber recycling has been around for roughly 100 years, with most of it coming from rubber tires. This has led to tremendous benefits for the environment and public. Thanks to recycling, more than 110 million tires

are kept out of landfills, fields, and streams each year.

TIRE AND RUBBER RECYCLING IS ESSENTIAL

 

Major Economic Impact

The tire and rubber recycling industry’s total annual economic impact

in the U.S. is $2.47 billion. The industry supports more than 12,400 U.S. jobs.

 

Saving The Environment

Using recycled rubber in molded products reduces greenhouse gas emissions anywhere from 25 percent to 80 percent compared with using virgin resins.

 

New Life for Old Rubber

In one year alone, 80 million discarded tires are processed into so-called crumb rubber, which becomes playground surfaces, synthetic turf infill, and other products. Another 20 million tires are used for civil engineering projects such as road embankments and rail vibration dampening.

 

FUN FACTS

  • Today’s tire recyclers have two approaches for tire processing: Ambient shredding uses powerful interlocking knives to cut tires into pieces at room temperature. Cryogenic processing uses liquid nitrogen to change the physical properties of the tires to make them brittle. They are then smashed into small pieces.

  • Farmers use recycled rubber for vegetation protectors and windbreaks, sheds, livestock mats, feeders, and other needs.

 

THE BASICS ABOUT RECYCLED RUBBER

What Is Recycled Rubber?

Rubber has been recycled for about a century, but the market has greatly expanded in the past two decades. Most recycled rubber comes from reuse of rubber tires, which has significant benefits to the environment and the public.

 

Today more than recycling keeps more than 110 million tires out of landfills each year. Materials like fiber and wire are moved and the rubber is cleaned, and then the rubber is typically ground into what is called crumb rubber. The recycled rubber can then be used for a wide variety of applications, including in synthetic turf fields, hospital floors, roads and sidewalks, and even shoes.

Recycled rubber gives us innovative ways to reduce waste while solving important challenges – from facilitating softer playground surfaces, to reducing the chance of injuries for athletes, to building lower-impact hospital floors for nurses on their feet all day.

How Is It Made?

Recycled rubber is produced from replaced tires through a straightforward process. There are two main ways in which this happens:

  • AMBIENT SHREDDING uses powerful, interlocking knives to chop tires into smaller pieces.

  • CRYOGENIC PROCESS uses liquid nitrogen to freeze them at sub-zero temperature. These cold temperatures cause the tire to become very brittle. The tire is then placed in an enclosure in which powerful hammers smash the tire apart.

The non-rubber portions of the tire are also recycled. For example, the steel beads that give the tire its shape and structure are recovered by recyclers and processed into specification grade product used by steel mills for new steel. At no point in the process does the rubber undergo any chemical change. In short, recycled rubber is rubber.

 

How Is It Used?

AGRICULTURE: Recycled rubber helps increase yield and efficiency for the agricultural sector. It's used in vegetation protectors and windbreaks, sheds, livestock mats, bumpers, feeders, and agrimats.

 

HOME & GARDEN: A variety of everyday household products, including landscaping mulch, flowerpots, garden hoses, tables and benches, and welcome mats, use recycled rubber as a material.

 

INFRASTRUCTURE: Recycled rubber used in roadway asphalt, sidewalks, speed bumps provides surface durability while reducing traffic noise.

 

MEDICAL: In healthcare facility surfaces and nursing home floors, recycled rubber provides comfort and quiet for medical professionals and patients.

 

PLAYGROUND SURFACES: Mats and mulch made of recycled rubber help to cushion our children's falls.

 

SPORTS: Across the country, recycled rubber is used in thousands of numerous synthetic turf fields, tennis courts, cycling tracks, gym floors, running tracks, mats, and even treads in athletic shoes, helping to broaden sports and fitness opportunities.

Recycling rubber from tires is an important environmental and economic activity, as it helps to reduce the number of tires in landfills, saves energy, and conserves natural resources. Here’s an overview of the process and its benefits:

 

Process of Recycling Rubber from Tires:

  1. Collection: Used tires are collected from various sources, including vehicle maintenance shops, tire retailers, and directly from the public.

  2. Shredding and Grinding: The tires are then shredded into small pieces. The size of the shredded pieces can vary depending on the intended use of the recycled material. The shredding process often involves several stages to gradually reduce the size of the tire material.

  3. Steel and Fiber Separation: Tires contain steel and fiber, which are separated from the rubber during the recycling process. Magnets can remove the steel, while screens and blowers can remove fibers.

  4. Cleaning: The rubber is then cleaned to remove any remaining dirt or debris.

  5. Processing into New Products: The cleaned rubber crumb can be further processed and mixed with other materials to be used in new products. For example, recycled tire rubber can be used in asphalt to create rubberized asphalt for roads, as a surface for playgrounds, or in athletic tracks and fields. It’s also used in manufacturing new tires and various rubber products.

 

Benefits of Recycling Rubber from Tires:

  • Environmental: Recycling tires helps to reduce pollution and waste. Tires that are not recycled can take up large amounts of space in landfills and can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other pests. Moreover, tire fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish and can create significant air pollution.

  • Energy Conservation: The energy required to produce products from recycled rubber is often less than that required to produce new materials from scratch.

  • Economic: Recycling creates jobs in the processing and manufacturing industries. It can also be more cost-effective than disposal in landfills or incineration.

  • Material Recovery: Rubber is a valuable material, and through recycling, the rubber in tires can be recovered and reused, conserving the raw materials (like petroleum and natural rubber) that would otherwise be needed to produce new rubber products.

  • Innovation: Recycled tire rubber is being used in an increasing number of applications, driving innovation in manufacturing and materials science.

Recycling rubber from tires is a growing industry that supports sustainability efforts while also contributing to economic growth.

It’s a practical solution to the environmental problem posed by the
arge volume of tires that reach the end of their useful life each year.

Image by Tobias Weinhold
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