Innovation solutions for end-of-life tyres

Tyre Stewardship Australia is investing $6 million to fund manufacturing-focused projects. CEO Lina Goodman and Flexiroc CEO Gary Bullock speak with Manufacturers’ Monthly about recycling old tyres for use in the manufacturing sector.

Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) plays a leading role in bringing together government, industry, manufacturers, researchers and recyclers in partnerships to improve market conditions to better manage end-of-life tyres (EOLT) and drive growth of domestic Tyre Derived Product (TDP).

But while TDP such as crumb rubber for use in roads, playground surfacing, and even as an additive into explosives, have been developed, market demand for those products is far outweighed by the volume of waste tyres – around 56 million produced in Australia every year.

This is why TSA has invested almost $6 million to fund projects – including research and development – that lead to higher volumes of EOLT being processed into TDP, while brokering connections between the sectors relevant to gaining market entry and investing in early stage commercial opportunities.

“TSA-funded research is successfully evolving into commercial markets and infrastructure that will ensure consistent, ongoing consumption of Australian tyre-derived product,” TSA CEO Lina Goodman said. “Our projects focus on progressing from an idea to a bona-fide, successful tyre-derived advanced manufacturing product. It’s exciting to witness the evolution from research into real world impact.”

Two manufacturing research projects funded by TSA are at the forefront of this evolution.
Protectiflex is an ingenious product using recycled rubber tyres to produce a spray-on concrete that is blast, ballistic and fire-resistant. TSA has partnered with Flexiroc and the University of Wollongong to conduct a series of simulation and field testing to demonstrate how the spray-on composite creates blast resistant walls.

Protectiflex has undergone field tests at the University of Wollongong. Image credit: Tyre Stewardship Australia

Flexiroc managing director, Gary Bullock, said the spray-on application can be applied to both new and existing walls and buildings to develop or enhance their blast, ballistic and fire-resistance ratings.

“ProtectiFlex has applications across a range of sectors including defence, government, critical infrastructure, petrochemical and retail,” he said.

“When subjected to extreme blasts, ballistics and impact, conventional concrete masonry materials can create deadly shrapnel. We saw a need to create an innovative, eco-friendly and cost-effective concrete-like material to meet security and safety design.”
Goodman hails Protectiflex a “game changer”. “This innovative product made from recycled tyres could potentially save lives,” she said.

Protectiflex was shortlisted for the Endeavour Awards this year, Australia’s most prestigious manufacturing awards in the Environmental Solution category. The product itself is environmentally sound (recovered tyre use, light weight, reduced quantity compared to alternative materials), with an estimated 635 tonnes of tyre derived product per year consumed, based on projections across multiple end markets.

Although narrowly missing out on the accolade, the market leads for Flexiroc were exponential in civil engineering applications, critical infrastructure, petrochemical and mining and defence industries. Recently, Flexiroc partnered with the Department of Defence to undertake further research. The company views the technology as highly promising, given the breadth of markets, performance results, and the absence of competitive alternatives for the applications in question.

A TSA-funded research project in partnership with the University of Melbourne has produced similar success with permeable pavements manufactured from recycled tyres. In 2016, through one of its earliest research projects, TSA partnered with the University of Melbourne to prove the viability of permeable pavements.

Protectiflex is manufactured using recycled rubber tyres to produce a spray-on concrete that is blast, ballistic, and fire-resistant. Image credit: Tyre Stewardship Australia

The research team was able to formulate a mix to test as a permeable pavement in an experimental setting. Based on the outstanding results, the University of Melbourne was awarded additional funding to conduct a large-scale field trial in Adelaide with the City of Mitcham. This high-tech paving material, made from 50 per cent used tyres, was installed at St Mary’s carpark in the City of Mitcham. It was a major field trial in sustainable urban drainage design.

“Not only do permeable pavements sustain urban vegetation, they can help increase groundwater recharge, reduce surface runoff, decrease the risk of flash-flooding and help with the treatment of storm water,” Mayor of the City of Mitcham, Dr Heather Holmes-Ross said.

Goodman said the trial would use four tonnes of tyre-derived aggregates – the equivalent to diverting 500 passenger tyres from the waste stream.

“The use of end-of-life tyres as an aggregate blend for permeable pavement is an innovative application. If we can create the right product that is cost effective, skid resistant, durable and flexible, we have the potential to use around 300,000 end-of-life tyres a year in local government infrastructure – a great contribution to the development of markets for Australian recycled tyre product.”

TSA is supportive of funding innovative and emerging manufacturing projects utilising Australian Tyre Derived Products. On the 30th of June 2020, TSA funded almost $2 million in civil infrastructure and advanced manufacturing projects.
Its refreshed website offers a new knowledge hub dedicated to sourcing recycled products that use Australian TDPs, exemplifying TSA’s leadership as a conduit for all TDPs and applications.

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