Toughing it out with repurposed tyres

Manufacturers’ Monthly interviews Taurus Mats founder Owen Henry about creating a sustainable business from Australian end-of-life tyres.

A hobby farmer from the Sunshine Coast is turning old tyres into woven mats to help improve livestock welfare.

Local manufacturer Taurus Mats creates a safer, non-slip, surface for livestock in high-traffic areas, which are made with tyre treads fastened with stainless steel bolts.

The recycled products require minimal energy to produce and are used predominantly in cattle handling and loading areas where livestock can slip and get injured on slippery, hard surfaces.

Initially trialling the product at local Queensland farms, founder Owen Henry has now garnered interest from all over Australia.

“The feedback we have received so far is very positive,” he said. “The cattle are calmer, and our product has proven itself to be highly durable in the harsh conditions.”

Henry began the business making the mats by hand, and now has four specialised machines to do the job, imported from the US.

Taurus Mats uses up to 1,000 tonnes of Australian end-of-life tyres a year and generates lower transport emissions compared to international competitors.

TSA CEO Lina Goodman said the organisation was proud to invest in the project.

“These mats use end-of-life tyres, a product that we have plenty of and one that too often ends up exported, in landfill or stockpiled,” she said.

The collaboration began when Henry questioned why the product couldn’t be made in Australia.

After doing his own research, he eventually connected with Tyre Stewardship Australia.

“From there, it was a very involved process to get funding, which was very good, because it made you think about all aspects of the business. The funding came through, and they gave me a good chunk of money to start a pilot business,” he said.

There is no shortage of tyres, and according to Henry, the furthest he travels to source his tyre supply is a mere 10km. There’s no need for a stockpile as Henry sources the tyres from local mechanics.

“That alleviates some of the environmental procedures I need to follow. As long as I purchase in advance, I will have a decent stockpile of those, but that’s the height of it,” he explained.

Being the only manufacturer of livestock mats in Australia, it’s a gig that he’s willing to keep toughing it out for.

“You’re working on a few square metres a day, which isn’t a lot, but there’s an awful lot that goes into it,” Henry said.

The idea came to him while working for a cattle equipment supply company, who were bringing these mats in from America.

“People were paying a lot of money, and on top of that, they had to pay for freight, and deal with quarantine and biosecurity issues,” Henry explained. “And, I thought, there’s got to be a market for this in Australia.”

Although he admits that initially, it “wasn’t fantastic”, his business eventually generated interested through Tyre Stewardship Australia.

“Initially, I was going through one supplier and there were a lot of trial mats going out to test the product. Now, we’re getting a lot of business, because people find the product actually works.”

The business has found a stable market in the cattle industry and continues to find alternative uses such as road surfacing.

“One of my customers can now go up a hill on a two-wheel drive, whereas before only a four-wheel drive if they can get up at all,” he said.

While feed lots have remained the key market, Taurus Mats is aiming to sell into small domestic producers.

He calls the nature of tyres his “biggest saving grace”, being made of a tough material to handle.

“For me, if it was easy, everyone would be doing the same thing as me. It’s an awful lot of trial and error. Ninety per cent of what I try doesn’t work. That 10 per cent that does work is very rewarding,” he said.

While Henry’s business continues to grow, Tyre Stewardship Australia is also focused on advocating for the use of end-of-life tyres.

“TSA’s mission is to increase the use of crumb rubber exponentially across all sectors in Australia – and local councils have a critical role to play,” Goodman said.

“With 85 per cent of roads managed by local councils and significantly more low traffic roads found nationally, local government procurement power is critical to using resources like crumb rubber – created from the millions of used tyres generated in Australia each year – to create a better performing, longer lasting Australian road network,” Goodman explained.

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