Does Your Small Business Literally Burn Through Tires? What Are Your Best Recycling Options?

Posted on: 27 January 2016

If you own a small business in an industry that generates potentially hazardous waste as a byproduct of normal operations -- used tires or rubber components, paints, solvents, or batteries -- you may face a constant battle when it comes to disposing of these materials in a safe and eco-friendly way without hurting your bottom line. Because of their size, storage requirements, and potential flammability, used tires can be particularly problematic when it comes to proper disposal. Fortunately, the versatility of rubber and advances in recycling technology have recently combined to give you more (and more lucrative) ways to recycle old tires than ever before. Read on to learn about several of the most cost-effective ways for you to recycle the used tires routinely generated by your business.

Reverse polymerization

While the rubber recycling techniques used by previous generations were usually limited to chopping or melting and reforming used rubber, a recent technological breakthrough uses reverse polymerization to break tires down into their four primary components—carbon black, crude oil, steel, and syngas. After these substances are broken down, they can be removed from each other fairly easily, generating a pure product that can be used by a variety of different manufacturers. 

The reverse polymerization process uses microwaves to break the molecular bonds that keep tires in a solid form. Unlike burning or melting, which can release harmful metals and oils into the air, this process produces no potentially harmful emissions and uses relatively little energy. 

Recycled asphalt pavement 

Another creative and eco-friendly use for old tires is as a base for recycled asphalt pavement (RAP). Like tires, asphalt's primary ingredient is crude oil—however, because most "hot mix" asphalt must be heated to an ultra-high temperature before application, many contractors in temperate parts of the country find it difficult to pave patch potholes or repair roadways during chilly weather. On the other hand, leaving these structural problems on public roads or highways unrepaired can cause damage to passenger vehicles or even lead to an auto accident.

One solution to this problem is RAP or "cold mix" asphalt. Because this asphalt is partially composed of chopped, recycled tires (which already include a binding agent in the form of syngas), it doesn't need to be heated to nearly the same extent as hot mix asphalt, and can be applied and left to dry in chilly conditions without prematurely hardening or developing cracks. This asphalt is usually available at a lower cost than hot mix asphalt because it uses less energy during the melting and application process, and is considered one of the most eco-friendly types of asphalt available.

Tire pyrolysis 

While this method does involve melting tires, which will normally release harmful byproducts into the atmosphere, tire pyrolysis performs this process in a controlled, oxygen-free environment to help completely avoid emissions and waste. Like reverse polymerization, tire pyrolysis is able to reduce tires to their primary components -- and because each of these components has a specific commercial application or value, no recycling byproducts are wasted. As microscopic airborne molecules escape from the pyrolysis reactor in which they are being melted, they are collected in a condenser that attempts to extract all the oil and minerals found in these particles.

Both this condensed oil and the air containing particles that can't be condensed are great sources of liquid or gas fuel, and the heavy metals that help make up the belts in used tires can be used to manufacture industrial items or merely sold for scrap to a wholesaler, helping make this a viable option for both the budget-conscious and the environmentally-conscious.

To learn more about how you can implement one of these options to dispose of your used tires, contact a waste management company like B-P Trucking Inc.