The tire recycling market is growing more and more. The network is vast: the tire dealers, the final link with the consumer, are 25 thousand throughout Italy. The sector is managed by two large consortia, Ecopneus and Ecotyre. As regards Ecopneus, the collection of ELTs, end-of-life tires, it is already at 73,750 tons in the first four months of the year (the key month was March, with over 20 thousand tons). The operational collection target is 196,732 tons and everything suggests that the figure will be exceeded since in the period January-April 2022 it has already been exceeded the set target (which was 67,232 tons). In 2021, the collection was 200,491 tons (the legal target was 166,249 tons).
New tires from recycled ones
The Ecotyre Consortium is based in Vinovo (Turin) but provides logistic services for the collection of ELTs throughout the national territory: in 2021 over 44,700 tons of ELTs were collected; 42 thousand of these come from the national spare parts network and 2,500 from Aci car wreckers.
Of course, each consortium and each company have particular characteristics. Ecotyre has just launched the “From rubber to rubber” project: «Our goal is to create a new tire from an ELT – said the president of Ecotyre Enrico Ambrogio -. Today a tire is made of 70% rubber, 20% steel and the remainder of fibers. If steel and fibers are easy to recycle, the situation is different for rubber. From the rubber granule we create a compound with a devulcanization process, we make it back raw, like when a tire is created from scratch. To simplify: like pizza dough. We give the compound then the various companies, from Continental to Pirelli, think about creating the tire. We currently process around 50,000 tons a year. We then have a partnership with Versalisthe company of the Eni group: road tests were carried out with our tires, everything went well ».
Microwaves and research from the University of Florence
Among the innovative products is Tyrebirth, whose patents, born from the Caf group but now all owned by Tyrebirth srl, are full green. In fact, the process makes it possible to transform end-of-life tires into new products to be placed on the market. «It all started from Caf and from a research with the University of Florence – explains Paolo Budroni, one of the project managers -. We are based on the principle of pyrolysisthat is, a process of decomposition of tires by heat treatment obtained with the use of microwaves as a source of energy: the microwaves act directly on the molecular structure of the tire, causing the splitting of the molecules that compose it ».
«Here there is no combustion – he adds -. We use vibrational energy: we bring the molecules inside the tire to ‘vibrate’ until the vibrational force is stronger than that of cohesion. There begins a split, I would say natural ».