BUILDING INNOVATION FOR A CRUMB RUBBER INDUSTRY IN THE HEART OF EUROPE

Sustainable Development Goals

Organizations Involved:
GVG Gummiverwertungsgesellschaft, Austrian Industrial Research Promotion Fund, MeWa, Vienna University of Technology, Institute for Road Construction & Maintenance 
Services:
Due Diligence, Supply Chain Management, Component Supply

The Challenge:

Each year millions upon millions of vehicles reach the end of their useful lives; in the EU these vehicles are known as "end-of-life vehicles" which means these vehicles need to be recycled. All of the vehicles have tyres and the recycling of waste tyres contributes to a reasonable reduction in the consumption of energy and resources. Recycling will help to achieve the requirements in the directive 2000/53/EC from the European Council: By 2006, for all end-of-life vehicles reuse and recycling should increase to a minimum of 80% and no later than 1 January 2015, for all end-of-life vehicles, the reuse and recovery shall be increased to a minimum of 95 % by an average weight per vehicle and year. Within the same time limit, the re-use and recycling shall be increased to a minimum of 85 % by an average weight per vehicle and year.

Waste tyres are fiber-reinforced composites, with a strong adhesion between the fibers and the rubber matrix, thus making the separation process rather time-consuming and expensive. Additionally, the traditional crumb rubber market is saturated in Europe suffering from an abundance of supply and lack of new markets for tyre-derived products which ultimately makes landfilling (under EU legal exclusion "engineering cover") and Tire-Derived Fuel ("TDF") a better and more cost-effective process for the disposal of waste tyres.

The Solution:

One of the most modern waste tyre recycling plants was operated by GVG, Gummiverwertungsgesellschaft GmbH, in Ohlsdorf in the province of Upper Austria. The waste tyres are cut and ground via several steps, steel, rubber, and fiber fractions are cleanly separated from each other. The unique quality aspect of the plant is an accurate sorting and separation of rubbers from 70% passenger cars and 30% truck tyres at a capacity of 15-20 metric tonnes per hour (T/H) or max 240 metric tonnes per day. However, keep in mind that is not 24/7, and in our experience with ongoing maintenance shredding plants can effectively run 12 hours per day with the correct maintenance schedules; running them longer has a significant effect on their long-term durability and that goes for all brands regardless of vendor claims. While this plant is 100% capable of processing the 20 T/H the ideal capacity is 15 T/H which equates to an annual processing capacity of approximately 60,000 TPA, roughly 6.6m scrap tyres annually. 

The GVG plant design is capable of producing the kinds of rubber material from used tyres:

  • 150 mm TDF utilization, 8 - 50 mm thermal utilization for pyrolysis applications, noise protection filling material on construction sites in sensitive areas;
  • 1 - 5 mm Sports ground covering applications, flat roof matting, playground covering, drainage mats, noise protection mats specialized products, i.e. bone-shaped stones for pavements;
  • 1 - 3 mm Addition to asphalt;
  • 0 - 1 mm Addition for new rubber products oil-binding material.

The capacities and the purities of the different output materials were determined by the plant design which is chosen GVG's envisioned customer's requirements. Capacities for plants of typical size are:

  • Pre-shredding: approx. 10 – 15 T/H;
  • Granulation: approx. 2,5 – 4 T/H per granulating line (depends on line design);
  • Cryogenic fine milling: approx. 1 T/H per module.

Purities that can be achieved without problems are:

  • Steel: 99.99% free of steel;
  • Textiles: 99.90% free of bare textile fluffs.

Personnel for a plant of standard size:

  • For the pre-shredding: 1 person with a front-end loader;
  • For the granulation: 2 people;
  • For the fine milling: 1 person;
  • Shift supervisor: 1 person.

The recovered products are of high quality and can be used for a variety of applications within the rubber industry and construction materials, such as asphalt mixtures for roads. Although the successful use of different rubber modifications for asphalt mixtures is known and being done in North America, it is not widely practiced in the EU and due to stone mastic asphalt ("SMA")  which requires a different systematic approach for mix design for use of recycled rubber in European road construction. This application however is a significant opportunity in the EU.

Benefits Realized:

Unfortunately, this project is an example of how great technology that produces excellent quality products can go horribly wrong without doing a Detailed Feasibility Study ("DFS"). Time and time again we see these results as project developers often see grants, subsidies, and upcoming legislation changes as the driving force that will create a booming opportunity instead of focusing on the fundamentals of business, which is to make a quality product that is in high demand and secures the sales for that product in advance making the investment. Additionally, any business must be economic on its own based on what it produces without subsidies, grants, or tipping fees/gate fees.

Securing 60,000 tonnes of waste tyres each year is no easy task, certainly not getting it from bankable suppliers, so setting up this collection infrastructure itself is both costly and time-consuming especially in Austria. Additionally, producing more of the same product in a saturated marketplace based on new and incoming government policy doesn't always make sense. What makes sense is product innovation and while this project certainly had innovative technology, GVG failed to find higher-value applications for the products it could produce, and even more challenging was that the feedstock became harder to acquire the older the project got. This when combined with competition from other Central European plants that can produce the same products for the existing well-established marketplace for less, essentially creates a price war to the lowest price. The end result was a project that struggled to get the required feedstock it needed, that combined with the reduction in product demand and fall of commodity pricing, GVG was unable to continue. This project is a classic example of poor long-term planning in the tyre recycling sector.

The limited success of the project yielded fewer results than what it had the potential to achieve (approximate volume):

  • Est +30,000 TPA of scrap tyres recycled;
  • Est +150,000 MT recycling during its operations;
  • Est 15m waste tyres recycled; 
  • A limited number of jobs were created in the region. 
This project addresses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by considering the goals and associated targets illustrated by the WBCSD’s Tyre Industry Project (TIP). TIP offers a framework for action that outlines impactful pathways for the tyre sector to contribute to the ambitions of the SDGs. To learn more about how Klean's approach, solutions, and technologies contribute to advancing the SDGs please review the report called "Sustainability Driven: Accelerating Impact with the Tyre Sector SDG Roadmap". See: https://www.wbcsd.org/Sector-Projects/Tire-Industry-Project/End-of-Life-Tires-ELTs