22nd ETRA Conference 2015

22nd Annual European Tyre Recycling Conference organised by the European Tyre Recycling Association saw a recovery in 2015 from a poor level of attendance in 2014 caused by a change in timing and a clash with another event. 107 delegates met at the NH du Grand Sablon in March to discuss the current state of affairs in the tyre recycling sector. It is, by tyre recycling industry measures, a grand event where delegates have the rare opportunity to mix with a wide range of observers, researchers and experts in the field of tyre recycling.

The event has become so popular with researchers wishing to present papers and exchange views that two days of full conference seems barely enough time to encompass all that is delivered, or needs to be delivered.

The biggest news of the conference was the presentation of the tyre arisings statistics that suggests an miscalculation across Europe that paints a rather different picture of tyre arisings, and indeed of the true degree of success of producer responsibility, a point made repeatedly by Peter Taylor of the TRA and outlined in the preceding article.

Yet, whilst the figures presented suggested that there should be an oversupply of tyre arisings, some markets in Europe are seeing ELT with positive values, whilst elsewhere there are considerable negative values. A spokesman for a leading commodity dealer handling tyre waste internationally told TRR that “no-one has anything to sell”, yet at the same time this office has been receiving calls from businesses who cannot obtain the quality and volume of materials that they require. This topic was a recurring matter of discussion “off piste”, as it were.

In line with the way ELT are managed, conference heard from Hermann Erdmann of REDISA, who held the attention of the conference with his slick presentation on the reasons for and the need for REDISA’s method of waste management. Erdmann pointed out that the experience with the tyre sector was a proof of concept. Proof that by divorcing manufacturers

and importers from the recycling process and taking control of the waste centrally, there was the potential to create a national resource based in waste management. “In the future, there will be no waste, just a new range of commodities.” That, in our still throw-away society takes some thinking about, but as resources diminish, there is only one place where we can get new raw materials from, the recycled waste sector. That may be a long term outcome, but the tyre recycling sector is in a strong position to exploit that opportunity when it comes.

Conference also heard from Australia. Liam O’Keefe from Sustainability Victoria came to conference to discover just how far Europe had come in the recycling sector. Liam gave a positive and interesting presentation on how tyre recycling operated in Victoria, and also touched on developments in Australia as a whole. Australia, he told TRR, has some work to do to deal with its tyre arisings and there is potential for projects to find partners in Australia. The huge issue though is one of both distance and volume, points of arising may be low volume and some way distant from any valorisation point, even in Victoria State.

The official business of the conference could be clearly divided into two areas, and they were roughly equally supported by delegates. The first being the pyrolysis sector, where the experts in the industry, led by Dr. Gisele Jung and Ir. Jean Paul Bouysset discussed the latest developments and the need for standards that were accepted on a global market.

Present at the conference, and in particular in attendance at the Pyrolysis Forum were representatives from ASTM International, the independent body that sets industry standards for almost any product or material in use globally. This was an area of huge interest as the biggest barrier to marketing recovered Carbon Black (rCB) is the lack of an rCB standard. Currently every manufacturer has its own standard for production and measures it as an equivalent to N550 or N600 or in the vicinity of, these standards for CB. For high volume, high value markets, being close is not close enough. The ability to say this is rCB at rCB standard N500* (or whatever designation it is given) allows producers to target production and buyers to specify what they require.

The Pyrolysis Forum heard of alternate processes –tyre pyrolysis using molten zinc, for one, and innovations in various pyrolysis processes

The conventional element of the forum looked at a number of elements of recycling that were coming to fuition or were being developed. The star of the event was the presentation of ETRA’s own SMART project, which has now been concluded and is being commercialised. Here, rubber powders of varying grades according to the specification of the end product, are remoulded using only heat and pressure to create new rubber products. Dr. Fabrizio Quadrini presented on SMART and what work had been done, the goals achieved and the potential for the process for manufacturers of end products to recycle rubber without the use of any additives at all.

The conference was introduced to the Anagennisi project and some time was given to the use of ELT materials in concrete. TRR is not going to go into these in detail at this stage because the subject matter deserves more time and space as it is full of complexities and contradictions that need proper explanation.

One of the interesting presentations was on a product called Neoballast. By now the use of recycled rubber to insulate tram rails in urban environments is well documented – and a visitor to most European cities can often tell the difference between trams running on insulated rails and those set in concrete – through both noise and vibration, both in and around the tramway. Neoballast is a process that coats traditional ballast with a rubber film that improves vibration resistance, reduces noise and increases drainage. It has potential uses on both new and replacement rail projects and offers a huge potential market across Europe.

Key to the future of tyre recycling is the use of tyres in civil engineering in the urban environment. This was witnessed by the oversubscription of the Turin Flex in the City seminar run by ETRA, and the coming asphalt rubber seminar to be held in Italy in the autumn. Support for this came from Geom. Bruno Marabotto of Turin City Council, and from Andres Macho Jiminez from the Spanish Environment Ministry. The conference heard how rubber had already been used in urban locations in insulating tram lines, in helping to reduce road traffic noise, in enhancing the urban environment around bus halts and tree lined avenues. Plus of course the way in which rubber had been used in children’s play areas and in sports fields throughout the city.

Dr. Serji Amirkhanian provided a lighter element to the presentations, through a thought provoking presentation of misconceptions about tyre recycling and tyre recycling processes. He asked that we approach the challenges with open minds and avoid the misconceptions.

The final session of the conference was some open discussion about the conference itself and how it could move forwards, and there is, despite the fantastic level and huge quality of presentations at this 22nd event, still room for improvement. If there is any level of criticism that could be laid at this event in 2015, it would be that it needed more time to cover all of the subjects presented.

However, the question remains whether the ELT recycling sector sees itself as an industry in its own right, capable of growing, developing business and markets and employing people and generating income, or whether it is simply a service to the tyre industry? Some felt that there was an increasing need to be able to stand alone, others felt that the tyre industry was not only the supplier but the ultimate consumer of the new raw materials they were striving to create – this was particularly so amongst the pyrolysis sector, yet even here, there were increasing calls for the sector to seek alternate markets.


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