Tyre recycler up for top innovation award

A company looking to make money out of recycling old tyres, which are a major environmental issue, has been recognised for its work.

A Melbourne company that has found a way to recycle tyres and make money out of it is the first local finalist in the world’s top innovation award.

Disposing of old tyres is one of the world’s largest environmental problems, and 24 million old tyres are disposed of in Australia every year.

Green Distillation Technologies currently runs a pilot process in central NSW for turning old tyres into carbon, oil and steel that can be sold and re-used.

Called destructive distillation, the process uses heat – no higher than 500 degrees celsius – to reduce the tyres to three basic elements.

“It’s a bit like baking a cake in reverse,” GDT chief operating officer Trevor Bayley said.

The process, which is also pollutant-free, is simple but not obvious, chief executive Craig Dunn said.

“That’s the reason it’s not been done before,” Mr Dunn said.

The work has won GDT a nomination for an Edison Award, named after the famous inventor Thomas Edison.

The winners will be announced in New York on April 23.

After the destructive distillation process, carbon ends up as a black sooty powder, and can be sold to reinforce rubber products including mats and mud flaps.

The steel is collected clean and unchanged, and can be sold back to tyre makers.

The oil can be used as a heating fuel, in some diesel engines, or refined into aviation fuel.

Mr Dunn says there has been interest from several parties in buying the oil.

GDT is now building an $8 million commercial plant in Warren, NSW to process up to 19,000 tonnes of tyres per year.

On the current mix of car and truck tyres available, that’s 658,000 tyres per year.

Mr Bayley said there were other operators recycling rubber tyres, but their processes involve pre-treating the tyre and chopping them up and removing the wire.

“As soon as you do that, all the economics of the process go,” he said.

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