Triasa to tackle trash tyres 

Triasa to tackle trash tyres 

There are currently no up-to-date statistics regarding waste tyre accumulation in South Africa. The Waste Bureau took over waste tyre distribution management following the demise of the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (Redisa). According to the bureau, South Africa generated approximately 300,000 tonnes of waste tyre material in 2018/19.

The launch of the Tyre Recycling Industry Association of South Africa (Triasa), the country’s first independent industry body, comes at a critical time for the local economy and the environment. So says Dr Mehran Zarrebini, one of the body’s founder members and CEO of Hammarsdale, KZN-based truck tyre recycling operation, Mathe Group.

Used tyres pose a number of health and environmental risks, but the road towards their efficient repurposing has been rocky in South Africa. Redisa was established in 2013 with the primary goal of creating an environmentally friendly waste tyre management solution. Unfortunately, it was suspended in 2017 following allegations of mismanagement, corruption, and financial irregularities. Minimal recycling has occurred since then.

However, Zarrebini is confident that Triasa – as a registered stakeholder in the lead-up to the imminent finalisation of the Section 29 Integrated Waste Tyre Plan – can make an important contribution to this new strategy. This involves not only helping to whittle away the ever-growing stockpile of waste tyres, but also creating entrepreneurial, manufacturing, and employment opportunities.

“Our aim is to unite the different elements of tyre recycling in South Africa and to provide a forum for discussion, knowledge exchange, and collaboration on pressing issues within the industry. Our priority as Triasa is to foster the growth of the tyre recycling industry, promoting a circular economy and reducing South Africa’s dependency on imported rubber,” says Zarrebini. He adds that Triasa’s primary objectives are three-fold:

  • Encouraging green public procurement and supporting the circular economy by promoting the use of recycled tyre material (RTM) in applications such as road resurfacing, construction, and infrastructure projects.
  • Stimulating the use of recycled content in new products so as to replace imported rubber.
  • Supporting research in tyre recycling. This would foster innovation in end-market applications for RTMs to expand their potential use and create new opportunities within the industry.

Zarrebini emphasises that the disposal of waste tyres is an international challenge. In 2021, global tyre production was estimated to be 1.9 billion units. This included tyres for on- and off-road vehicles and equipment.

“The rule of thumb to estimate potential tyre arisings is one-for-one: for each tyre placed on the market – as original or replacement equipment – one tyre will reach the end of its road life. From then, they will be defined as waste,” he explains. The global tyre waste pile also includes rejects.

In 2021, the 27 EU member states permanently removed about 4.213 million tonnes of tyres from passenger cars, utility vehicles, trucks, and off-road vehicles. This represented an increase of 300,000 tonnes in relation to 2019. There are comparable quantities in other regions, including the Americas, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East. 

Waste tyre statistics in South Africa are difficult to come by, however, posing a challenge for those devising a waste tyre plan. Although some role players provide accurate data, others have almost no record keeping systems. Zarrebini points out that this illustrates the need for a national audit on waste tyres in South Africa.

An estimate, based on confirmed data by the Waste Bureau, suggests that an average of 13 million tyres (weighing 300,000 tonnes) are sold in South Africa each year through a network of between 1,400 and 2,000 dealerships. Passenger vehicle tyres – including SUV, 4×4, and light truck radial tyres – contribute an estimated 89% of the total, with commercial vehicle tyres making up the other 11%. Applying an 18 to 20% reduction in weight between new and waste tyres results in an estimated 240,000 to 250,000 tonnes of end-of-life tyres per year in South Africa. The majority of these are returned to dealerships and fitment centres when new tyres are fitted.

An estimated off-road waste tyre stream of 20,000 tonnes per annum was added to derive a total estimated annual flow of waste tyres in South Africa ranging from 250,000 to 300,000 tonnes. Updated industry data suggest that 206,272 tonnes of waste tyres were generated in 2021.

The latest available government statistics estimate that in 2018/19 just 54,460 tonnes of waste tyres were re-processed.

Nevertheless, there are those who are doing their part to fight the good fight against waste tyres. As one of South Africa’s only remaining tyre recycling operations, Mathe Group is not only dedicated to reducing the burgeoning number of waste tyres piling up, but also to developing innovative products that can contribute to the growth of the green economy and the creation of jobs.

The group processes around 700 radial truck tyres per day and has increased capacity to the point where it produces around 25 to 30 tonnes of rubber crumb per day. The upcoming commissioning of a new plant is expected to increase this to 45 tonnes, or 1,000 tyres, per day.

“We process only radial truck tyres at our facility. Our clients prefer ground tyre rubber derived from radial truck tyres due to the higher percentage of natural rubber content. Passenger tyres provide an additional waste stream (fibre), which has a very limited re-use in South Africa, unlike the EU which has developed novel ways of utilising this waste in concrete applications,” says Zarrebini.

While Mathe Group repurposes radial truck tyres into rubber crumb, Van Dyck – another pioneering company of which Zarrebini is CEO – transforms this raw material into value-added products such as flooring and paving for gyms, fitness areas, and playgrounds, as well as ballistic tiles, acoustic underlays, and livestock mats. A large portion of these products is exported along with rubber crumb.

“In order to streamline our operations, Van Dyck relocated existing machinery from its old Durban factory [to Hammarsdale] and commissioned additional plants, enhancing overall output. This strategic move ensures that the Hammarsdale facility is fully vertically integrated, combining moulding and recycling processes under one roof,” Zarrebini explains.

“Our current position provides ample opportunity for scaling our business. The new investments are set to more than double our output, maximising the use of rubber crumb generated by Mathe Group for both internal and external purposes,” he continues. “As we face an increasing demand for recycled rubber, our next phase of investment will focus on augmenting our recycling capacity.”

A further investment has been in solar energy. The installation of a thousand 580-kW solar panels on the three roofs of the Hammarsdale facility enables the company to use renewable energy for more than half of its operational requirements. This is a first for South Africa’s tyre recycling industry.

“This has been a very proactive way of tackling the energy crisis,” says Zarrebini. “We are a sustainable company, so it makes sense that we use energy sustainably as well.”

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