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Sustainable Products from Scrap Tyres

Mexican Entrepreneurs Create Sustainable Products from Scrap Tyres

In Mexico, 40 million tonnes of tyres are discarded each year. Local entrepreneurs are addressing contamination by reusing this material to create waterproof coating, construction materials and a substitute for diesel.

Elizabeth Meza Rodríguez, El Economista (Mexico)

 

One billion tyres are produced worldwide every year, in addition to the four billion that are currently sitting in landfills, according to a World Business Council for Sustainable Development report on end-of-life tyres (ELT).

If South Korea, the United States and the European Union have an ELT recovery rate of 85 percent, it’s a whole different story for developing countries. In Mexico, for instance, only 10 percent of the 40 million tonnes of tyres discarded every year is recycled. The rest end up in landfills, rivers or on the streets, according to the country’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources.

But some Mexican companies – such as Granutec, Trisol and HM Energy Mexico – are reusing these tyres to produce waterproof coating, flooring and a fuel alternative to diesel, creating cost-effective business models while combatting pollution.

Using mechanical processes to recycle the material rather than burning it avoids releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, a major contributor to climate change. Last year, CO2 emissions reached a record high of 405 parts per million, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Magda Espinosa, general manager of Andellac, the Mexican national association of tyre dealers and distributors, points out that the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources issued official regulations three years ago for tyre producers and retailers to recycle their products. The goal is to have 14 million tyres recycled in a five-year period. So far, 5.4 million have been recycled, or 1.8 million per year.

Granutec is a family company based in Ecatepec, Mexico, that began operating 40 years ago under the name Central Hulera Álvarez, recycling tyres to produce shoe and boot soles for farmers. At first, only 40 percent of their raw materials came from recycling, but they developed a green waterproof coating that allowed them to create their products entirely from scrap tyres.

The company now processes 120 tonnes of tyres every month at their factory, and has a recycling capacity of 400 tonnes at their storage centre. Over the last year, their profits rose by 40 percent.

It takes a single tyre to produce a 19-litre bucket of waterproof coating that, once applied, can cover up to 20 square metres. It is an eco-friendly process, as it does not involve burning tyres. “We use roller screws to grind the material. Afterward, we separate the bead wire from the tyre by using magnets, and then we get the textile fibre,” says Alvarez. Finally, they add a sealant to the rubber granulates and powder to create the waterproof coating.

The company also manufactures rubber flooring and vinyl paint, and is currently seeking to expand across Mexico on a franchise model.

In 2011, Andrés García Gasca founded Trisol, a company that manufactures carpets, partition walls, running tracks, roads and waterproof coating from scrap tyres.

Like Granutec, Trisol uses a mechanical process to separate metal, textile fibres and rubber, producing rubber granules of different sizes that become the company’s products for the GreenOutdoors line.

The firm’s rubber flooring can be found inside the elephants’ habitat at the State of Mexico’s Zoo. The material can resist up to eight tonnes of weight and improve temperature conditions inside the habitat, minimising the elephants’ arthritis and allowing for better rest.

“It takes only one tyre to create two square metres of flooring. For the elephants’ habitat, for instance, we used 500 tyres, reducing considerably their environmental impact,” García explains.
The company has two factories in the State of Mexico, in Tultitlán and Ixtapaluca. Together, they process 30 tonnes of tyres every month, says Adrián Zavala Valadez, Trisol’s newest partner. He adds that the firm recycles 3,000 additional tonnes par month thanks to a partnership with an American company (whose name Valadez prefers not to disclose).

The Monterrey-based company HM Energy transforms scrap tyres into a fuel alternative to diesel for open-flame boilers, recycled steel and carbon black.

“It is a thermal process. The tyre, cut open, enters a 10-tonne capacity reactor, where oxygen is extracted and the temperature rises as high as 520 degrees. As a result, hydrocarbon evaporates from the tyre and condenses until you obtain a diesel substitute. The steel stays inside the reactor. From this process we then make the carbon black,” says Israel Magaña, co-founder of HM Energy.

In its Nuevo León-based plant, the company processes 10 tonnes of tyres a day. “Our products spare the environment around 35 percent of CO2 from diesel emissions, 98 percent from steel and another 98 percent from carbon black,” Magaña claims. These savings amount to roughly 6.7 times the CO2-equivalent absorbed by all the trees in Central Park, New York.

The company began operating in 2016, and now hopes to build its second processing plant in Mérida, Yucatán, to reach a total production of 15 million litres of green fuel per year, saving the planet annually 38 thousand tonnes of CO2 emissions.

El Economista
Elizabeth Meza Rodríguez
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