Flex and the City - Turin 2014

When most of the world thinks of Italian cities it thinks of Roma, Venice, Florence, Verona; with their ancient streets, churches, museums and architecture. Some may think of Milan and its reputation as a centre for shopping and fashion. However, the northern Italian city of Turin lies to the West of Milan and, although it is an old city, it suffered badly in the latter part of the last century.

As an industrial centre, the city was heavily bombed by the allies and even today some areas bear the scars of that time. This was later compounded by recession and the contraction of many of the city’s key employers, leaving areas of the city redundant, with large empty factories and “brownfield” sites.

In dealing with these challenges the city of Turin has lately been at the forefront of using innovative technologies to revitalise public spaces. There has been considerable development of construction projects, renewing and updating old buildings, and the city’s focus on developing its leisure infrastructure has seen the redesigning and rebirth of parks and sports fields throughout the city. This has spread around the Piedmont region to other local municipalities and this is why the European Tyre Recycling Association (ETRA), in partnership with the City of Turin, Antel, Argo, Collegio dei Periti Industriali e Periti Industriali Laurati Alessandria, the Federazione Collegio Periti Industriale di Piemonte, Ordini degli Enginiri della Provincia di Torino and the Ordini degli Architeti, Pianaficatore, Paesaggisti et Conservatore della Provincia di Torino came together to create a forum to present the possible uses of recycled end of life tyre materials to architects and civil engineers from the region.

The venue was a conference room at the old city courts of justice, the Ex Curia Maxima, and the event was oversubscribed. Every seat in the hall was occupied and there was standing room only for some of the delegates.

At this time of austerity in Italy many civil engineering projects have halted, and the conversion of sports field from traditional rammed earth and grass to modern all season surfaces has been all but halted. However, it was clear from the level of interest in this northern province of Italy that the civil engineers and the architects were very much open to learning more about how they could utilise recycled materials in their future projects.

The presentations made at the conference covered sports surfaces that use recycled tyre rubber, insulation from recycled tyre textiles, and many more applications. Since this was introducing a new technology to a new end users sector, the conference also presented on the level of research and development that had gone in to developing these new uses for end of life tyre sourced materials. It was important for the delegates to understand that these substitute or alternative materials were thoroughly tested and approved.

The seminar was introduced to projects already undertaken in the City of Turin, from simple mulching pads around the base of the city’s street trees, through to the sound and vibration reducing bedding for tram lines running through the city.

Speakers from the civil engineering sector discussed not only their use of new materials but the challenges and opportunities involved in using these materials.

Discussing the seminar with Dr. Valerie Shulman and Dr. Ettore Musacchi from ETRA it became clear that ETRA had come to understand that there was a real need to help take many of the projects in tyre recycling from the research element into the commercial sector if new markets for recycled tyre rubber were to be opened up. “There is a huge range of research that has been done but often it ends up sitting on a shelf. The researchers need to find people who can commercialise their research and for that to happen we need to raise awareness of the many uses of tyre derived materials in architecture and engineering projects,” said Shulman.

“We all know about the use of tyre rubber in sports surfaces; that is a high profile use. But the potential is much higher for the use of tyre derived materials in rubberised asphalt, in safety matting, bollards, insulation, drainage, irrigation and acoustic barriers. We need to tell the world and expand upon the use of tyre sourced materials,” continued Dr. Shulman.

“The potential for developing a tyre recycling industry is huge. We need to develop more efficient ways of using tyre derived materials. Tyres are a valuable source of raw materials and whilst there is a market and a purpose for consuming them in cement kilns, there are more environmentally, energy and resource efficient ways to recycle those materials before final use in cement kilns or waste to energy plants.”

Dr. Mussachi concluded, “This is what we hope to start with seminars such as Flex in the City. We need to develop a wider understanding of the potential markets and encourage greater use of recycled tyre materials in architecture and civil engineering projects. There is a growing need for the civil engineering sector to use recycled materials and that creates an opportunity for the tyre recycling sector to increase awareness and use of its end products.”

ETRA has plans to offer further Flex in the City type seminars aimed at improving awareness of the wide range of uses of end of life tyre materials in construction. These will take place at various venues throughout Europe in the coming years.



ETRA logo Antel logo ARGO logo

with the sponsorship of




flex & the city

Recycled Rubber Products and Applications for Roads, Urban Furniture and Transport

TURIN 30 October 2014

International Seminar for a Safer and more Sustainable City Life





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