A tire recycling veteran and current consultant Terry Gray who represents T.A.G. Resource Recovery located in Houston, poses that even though the industry went a long way and is regarded as successfully-established, some end scrap tire markets face problems and make think there could be disruptions in the overall market.

According to Gray, he commenced his way with the industry back in 1984, at the dawn of tire recycling in North America when barely 1 percent of scrap tires were being recycled. Three decades later tire recycling worldwide appears to be far more mature. In North America alone, some 90 percent of scrap tires are being reprocessed nowadays.

Notwithstanding, Gray perceives there are some bad news for tire recycling in U.S., too. These are “government-related impediments” in core end markets. Reportedly, tax credits designed for some tire-derived fuel (TDF) users in several states came to an end or expired, which means energy plants converted to TDF some time ago fail. According to Terry Gray, authorities in Michigan may be in need to boost alternative end-of-life tire markets to help tire recyclers keep afloat.

Another issue named by Terry is sports field additive market. Over years, it proved to be a strong consumer for crumb rubber and rubber powder, however its growth is being hampered by unsubstantiated claims that athletes exposed to crumb rubber infill in artificial turf pitches face health problems, cancer in particular.

It is estimated that about 1/3 of artificial turf field in U.S. are located in New England and California where regulators, reportedly, draw public attention to the problem and urge to be careful. Two years ago, in 2015, one quarter of all crumb rubber produced in the country was utilized on synthetic turf sports fields and yet another quarter went to playgrounds as protective surface or rubber mulch. Gray pinpoints that if the market shrinks, it will have rapid negative repercussions across the whole industry.

Regardless of the cautious policy in United States, numerous studies carried out by leading American and European institutions pinpoint that there is no significant threat crumb rubber can pose to athletes or anyone exposed to contact with the material. The most recent results were obtained by the Research of the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), the European Committee of Standardization (department CEN/TC 366), the Portuguese Technical Commission “Recycled Products from Tyres” (CT-181) and the Portuguese Association of Rubber Industry (APIB). Remarkably, over more than 20 years of the ongoing debate on health effects of crumb rubber, neither of the researches confirmed that the material poses a threat to human health.

To consider the topic, we recommend you reading our summary on the past researches published here.

To continue the list of potential uncertainties, Gray referred rubberized asphalt market as subject to experimental “wait and see” approach. On the other hand, we know how successful crumb rubber proved to be in road construction.

At the same time, Gray remarked that molded goods production from recycled rubber proved to be a very successful field which keeps growing and flourishing.

CEO of ReRubber LLC J.D. Wang asserts that investors of the company kept devoting significant volume of R&D funds into crumb rubber and rubber powder after they realized that the company itself was subject to 8 consecutive years of disruption.

According to Wang, ReRubber now produces rubber powder and undertakes R&D efforts to open up new markets for fine rubber powder used in protective coatings. Tire recycler explores supply loop which, according to Wang, enables it to carry out researches in California and swiftly adopt and try out these ideas in Asia bringing them afterwards back to United States.

Interestingly, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) asserts that back in 1990s tire-derived fuel for cement kilns was the only market for end-of-life tires in the state. Moreover, back then concerns about zink emissions were an impediment to the market. Even today, Elizabeth Hoover from DEQ recommends tire recyclers to diversify and sell to different markets to mitigate risk.

In addition, she pinpoints that states are willing to provide support in the form of loans for machinery, conferences, workshops, and assistance in developing new markets. At the same time, some of U.S. states with tight budgets failed to keep support programs up and running.

Article source: Recycling Today