According to the US EPA Americans go through about 290 million tires a year. About 230 million of them get recycled. That’s a pretty good rate.
The most common method for recycling tires is to shred them, remove the metal from the rubber, then grind the rubber into varying sizes of pellets to be used in manufacturing processes.
Tires may also be melted down, but this method is less common due to the vulcanization process used in manufacturing new tires. Vulcanization is the method by which sulfer is added to the rubber to make its molecular bonds stronger. It also makes the tires harder to melt.
Tires that are not recycled are typically incinerated, releasing various toxins into the environment. These include benzene, hydrogen chloride and formaldehyde. When used in waste-to-energy plants the result is the same.
Environmental Waste International, based in Ajax, Ontario, has developed a more environmentally friendly and efficient process to recycle used tires. The process is called Reverse Polymerization technology.
In Reverse Polymerization, microwaves are used to break the tires into their molecular components. This is not the same as melting. This process actually breaks the molecular bonds that make up the rubber. According to Environmental Waste International, this allows for reclamation of nearly 100% of the components of the tire.
When a tire is subjected to Reverse Polymerization, the by-products are carbon black, steel, oil and hydrocarbon gas. According to Dr. Stephen Simms, President and CEO, there are no emissions. The solids are used to manufacture new products, and the hydrocarbon gas is captured for use in energy generation. This is an added benefit of the process in that it allows the plant to be energy self-sustaining.
The prototype Reverse Polymerization system is in place in Sault Ste. Marie. The plant is expected to process some 300,000 tires annually and produce 240,000 gallons of oil, 2 million pounds of carbon black and 600,000 pounds of steel. At that production rate the plant will easily offset its $6 million price tag.
Reverse Polymerization technology is already generating alot of interest in countries all around the world. If the prototype lives up to expectations we can expect to see this technology in place on a global scale.
To learn more, visit Environmental Waste International at www.ewmc.com.
Video tour of the Sault Ste. Marie Plant: