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£100 million tyre recycling plant will reduce emissions by 80%

29 July 2022

Newcastle University and Wastefront are working together on a pivotal project to eliminate the UK’s waste tyres export.

The partnership will focus on the characterisation and enhancement of Wastefront’s recovered carbon black (rCB).
It will see cutting-edge industry innovation emerge from research conceived in the North of England – ensuring the region is at the forefront of progressing circularity across Europe.

The work is timely, as Wastefront gears up to play a crucial role in eliminating the UK’s waste tyres export, by creating a local, circular solution to a global problem. 

Through preventing the burning of waste tyres in cement kilns, Wastefront will use commercial operating technologies to convert end-of-life-tyres (ELTs) into useful commodities, including rCB.

The study will focus on rCB interaction with rubbers and its correlation with prospective industrial applications, directly supporting Wastefront’s efforts to enable the rCB it produces to be used in new products. The scope of work undertaken by Newcastle University over the next 18 months will:

1. Quantify the interaction of the rCB with a set of different solvents which have varying degrees of dispersion interaction.
2. Develop methods to better understand the nature of the surface within the rCB material.
3. Investigate applications for the rCB in other materials.

Of significance, within this scope of work, the study will develop methods to reduce inorganic components in rCB, improving its chemical and material properties to ensure Wastefront produces a superior product compared with its rCB competitors. This will include identifying rCB reinforcement in rubber goods.

Advances in sustainable innovation
Newcastle University Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research Strategy and Resources, Professor Brian Walker, said: “At Newcastle University, we are delighted to add this exciting partnership with Wastefront to our portfolio of research that advances sustainable innovation and the circular economy and enables progress towards a net-zero economy. 

“We are especially pleased that Wastefront will promote inclusive economic growth here in the North East, with its roots in the local area and the construction of its new plant at the Port of Sunderland."

Dr Katarina Novakovic, Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering at Newcastle University’s School of Engineering, added: "Circular use of resources in place of virgin material is the way forward in achieving sustainable living. To make this happen, we need to secure comparable quality between virgin and recycled material and do so at [an] industrial scale. 

“In this project, we focus on rCB and scalable enhancements of its properties to support its reuse. End-of-life-tyres, together with thermosetting plastic (so-called hard plastic) are one of the most challenging waste products for the waste supply chain to integrate into circular economy and development of sustainable solutions with every stakeholder is a matter of urgency."

Wastefront uses pyrolytic reactors that utilise thermal depolymerisation known as ‘pyrolysis’ to break down a tyre’s materials at elevated temperatures. By sending tyres through these reactors, recovered carbon black (a substitute for virgin carbon black) is produced, in addition to combustible gas, liquid hydrocarbon, and heat. 

The carbon black is then washed and milled to upgrade the chemical properties and can be used as a complement to natural rubber in tyre production, mechanical rubber goods or as a filler for plastics.

Once fully operational in 2025, Wastefront’s £100 million tyre recycling plant in Sunderland will produce rCB from a supply of 20 percent of the UK’s yearly total of ELTs. 

By integrating Wastefront’s rCB into new tyres, the emissions for each tyre subsequently produced will be reduced by 80 percent.




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