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LARGE-SCALE RECYCLING PROCESS FOR SCRAP TIRES AND

RUBBER PRODUCTS
R. E. Allred, N. C. Coons, D. J. Finley, and J. M. Shoemaker
Adherent Technologies, Inc.
Albuquerque, NM 87123
www.adherent-tech.com
and
R. L. Wilder and J. D. Wilder
Titan Technologies, Inc.
Albuquerque, NM 87109
www.titantechnologiesinc.com
ABSTRACT
A continuous tertiary recycling process has been developed for use on scrap tires and rubberbased materials. A standard size plant processes 100 tons per day of scrap tires into gaseous and
liquid hydrocarbons, steel, and carbon black. The hydrocarbons are high-quality fuels, the steel
is readiy resmelted, and the carbon black can be reused to reinforce rubbers and plastics.
Additional uses for the carbon black are found in applications such as filters, inks, toners, and
paints. By obtaining value from all the components in the scrap tires, the process is highly
profitable and produces an attractive rate of return on investment while solving the waste tire
disposal problem.
KEY WORDS: Recycling, Scrap Tires, Rubber, Tertiary Recycling

1. INTRODUCTION
Scrap rubber tires have been accumulating for decades and are becoming an increasing problem
throughout the US and the world. In the United States alone, where tire consumption is higher
than in any other country, an estimated 250 million scrap tires are being generated annually with
no indication of the wastestream slowing. This amounts to more than 1.5% of the municipal
solid wastestream or roughly one scrap tire for each person in this country [1]. In addition, there
are some three billion tires stockpiled in US landfills, collection sites, and illegal dumps that
pose environmental problems and potential health and fire hazards.

In September of 1999, lightning ignited a pile of 5 million scrap tires near Westley, CA, and
costs incurred in fighting and extinguishing the fire and for subsequent clean-up of the site are
estimated at over $20 million [2]. In Stockport, England, at a plant that manufactures ground
recycled rubber for use in manufacturing safety surfaces, several bags of ground rubber ignited
during a shrink-wrap process. The blaze burned out of control and generated large amounts of
black smoke killing one man and injuring others. Just recently, a blaze broke out at a storage
facility in Holtsville, NY, where over 160,000 illegally stockpiled scrap tires ignited. It took
nearly 24 hours and over 200 firefighters to put out the blaze [3]. These are only a few of
several examples of the dangers of scrap tire stockpiles. Although local, state, and federal
governments are desperately trying to battle the problem, current recycling methods for scrap
rubber are not adequate for handling the volumes of scrap tires that are generated each year let
alone the stockpiles that litter the world.
Current options for the scrap tire wastestream include storing the scrap in piles at a specified
location like the one pictured in Figure 1, sending the tires to landfills, retread, grinding into
crumb rubber for constructional and engineering uses, and burning the tires for fuel (also referred
to as tire-derived fuel or TDF) [4,5].

Figure 1. Tires are piling up worldwide


In fact, the most practiced tire recycling methods are tire shredding to recover the steel cords and
crumbing of the scrap rubber for use in asphalt and civil engineering projects. However, Civil
engineering projects do not consume sufficient quantities of crumb rubber to significantly impact
scrap tire stockpiles. Several companies and research and development firms are searching for
new, innovative ways to use crumb rubber. Nonetheless, one of the major issues behind tire
recycling and recycling in general is the economics of the process and the value of the products
being produced [6]. Although it is technically feasible to manufacture and produce many of
these new rubber products from recycled crumb rubber, several of these new products and
processes have poor economic viability and have very small and limited markets.

The limited recycling of scrap tires dictates that new approaches are developed to reduce this
wastestream and to reclaim value from this resource. Tertiary recycling (conversion of scrap
rubber tires into hydrocarbons for reuse as oils and fuels), and recovery of steel and carbon
black, is the most desirable means for economically reclaiming scrap tires.

2. TERTIARY RECYCLING PROCESS OVERVIEW


Research and development of the tertiary recycling process has been conducted jointly by
Adherent Technologies, Inc. and Titan Technologies, Inc. (Albuquerque, NM) for a decade. The
process has proven to be highly successful in recycling scrap tires. Three 100-ton per day
commercial recycling plants using the technology have been conducting profitable operations in
the Pacific Rim since construction in 1994. The appearance of the plant built in Taiwan in 1998
is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. 100-ton per day Titan tertiary tire recycling plant in Taiwan
The term tertiary recycling has been adopted from the American Plastics Council; by
definition, it is the processing of plastics back to valuable chemicals or fuels for reuse [7]. When
applied to complex mixtures such as scrap tires, the tertiary recycling process converts polymeric
waste into reusable hydrocarbon fractions for reincarnation as polymers, monomers, fuels, or
chemicals, automatically separating the steel, fiberglass, and carbon black with little manpower.
2.1 Description of System
A block flow diagram for the tertiary recycling process is given in Figure 3. The system is a
fully automated process for the conversion of scrap tire chips into the saleable commodities of

scrap steel, carbon black, and refined oil. This process is accomplished in a reactor unit using a
process-specific catalyst and temperature to break down the polymeric network structure of the
scrap rubber tire chips.

Figure 3. Schematic of tertiary tire recycling process


The scrap tires are shredded into approximately 2 x 2 in. chips and continuously weighed and
delivered to the inlet hopper of the oil-sealed screw conveyor. Materials transport through the
process reactor is accomplished using 40-ft long horizontal stainless steel screw conveyors to
agitate the material along while transporting it through the six stages of the heated zone. The
conveyors have top inlets and discharge chutes at each end. Individual hydraulic drives and a
central hydraulic pumping system power the reactors horizontal screw conveyors. The inlet and
outlet connections to the screw conveyors of the reactor have liquid oil seals. In addition, the
outlet connection to the carbon black screw conveyor for the carbon black product has a dry
carbon seal to prevent oxygen from entering the process.
As the material passes through the heated zone, organics are cracked and gasified and drawn off
the reactor into an offgas system by a turbine pump. Each reactor conveyor has a perforated top
in order to vent the gases off the process. A vertical stainless steel plenum welded to each
conveyor provides a means to collect these process gases. The gas is then filtered to remove the
carbon black carried over from the heated zone. The gases (consisting mostly of vaporized fuel
oils) are then pumped through two separate condensing stages, each of which is water cooled.
Cooling is provided through an air-cooled process chiller with a circulating pump system. Noncondensable gases are collected and recycled as the fuel medium for the burners, which maintain
the temperature in the reactor unit. Excess non-condensable gases are discharged to a flare and
burned.

The reactor unit is constructed with a 3/16-in. thick carbon steel liner on 6 x 6 x 0.5-in. tube steel
frame. The interior is insulated with 6-in. thermal Ceramics Pyro-Bloc E-Module (or equal) with
a 316SS (stainless steel) internal support system for operating ranges up to 1200 F. The exterior
is jacketed with 14-gauge aluminized steel.
The heating chamber is constructed of 3/16-in. stainless steel ducts with six dual-fuel-fired
burners/heaters, a recirculating fan, a combustion air blower, and an auxiliary matching
burner/heater for redundancy. The heaters are designed to burn either oil or gas recovered from
the recycling process. The burners discharge into a 10-ft carbon steel combustion air chamber.
The combustion chamber includes a 316SS flame guard to withstand the high firing temperature
of the fuel oil. A recirculating blower in the heating chamber is connected to the reactor unit
with six automatic adjustable inlet ducts, one for each screw conveyor level, to force the heating
air evenly through the reactor to heat the process. The circulating blower is also used for cool
down when the process is shut down for maintenance. A combustion air blower is installed in
the combustion air stack. Combustion air is provided with a make-up air damper tee in the
recirculated return air before the burner. A screw conveyor is mounted at the discharge from the
reactor unit to remove the carbon black and scrap steel. This conveyor is cooled with a water
jacket to reduce the product temperature for separation. The product then enters a drum magnet
to separate the scrap steel and carbon black. These products are delivered to the scrap steel
conveyor inlet with an open tank water seal, the carbon plug seal conveyor and then to the outlet
pick-up points for collection of the solid products.

3. TERTIARY RECYCLING CONVERSION PRODUCTS


3.1 Hydrocarbons
After the tires undergo catalytic conversion in the reactor, the liquid fraction is removed from the
unit and analyzed for fuel value. The hydrocarbons formed from the process are distilled to
determine their fuel composition. The distillation results from a typical reactor run are given in
Table 1.
As can be seen from the low percentage of residue (bottoms) present in the liquid hydrocarbon
fraction, the rubber from the tires is almost completely converted into high-quality fuels. Gas
chromatography/mass spectroscopy (GC/MS) analysis of the liquid conversion products showed
them to be primarily aliphatic hydrocarbons. Due to the very low concentration of contaminants
in the liquid stream, the hydrocarbons can either be upgraded into higher quality fuels or used
immediately as a valuable fuel source for ships, heating systems, consumer items, or generators.
3.2 Gaseous Products
The non-condensable gas stream can be collected in gas cells and analyzed by GC/MS to determine the composition and content of combustible hydrocarbons. Past tire recycling runs were
analyzed to determine composition of the gas stream. Approximately 65% of the gas stream was
composed of low molecular weight alkanes and alkenes with a typical heating value of 20,000
BTUs/lb. Other gases included nitrogen, oxygen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide.

Table 1. Composition of Reclaimed Oil from Tertiary Tire Recycling


Initial Boiling Point (F)

82

5% recovered (F)

96

10% recovered (F)

124

20% recovered (F)

188

30% recovered (F)

246

40% recovered (F)

290

50% recovered (F)

318

60% recovered (F)

376

70% recovered (F)

392

80% recovered (F)

420

90% recovered (F)

466

95% recovered (F)

494

End Point (F)

545

Percent Recovery

99

Percent Residue

Percent Lost

gasoline

naptha

kerosene

bottoms

3.3 Carbon Black


Carbon black, when combined with rubber, substantially increases the hardness and durability of
the product. The wear characteristic of carbon black reinforced rubber is a function of the
particle size, and the ability to resist wear varies inversely with the particle size (i.e., the finer the
particles, the better the rubber-reinforcing properties). Particle size is measured by numerical
grade, in nanometers (nm). The highest grade of carbon black has a particle size under 20 nm
and is designated as super abrasion furnace. The lowest grades are the semi-reinforcing furnace
blacks with particle sizes from 50 to 500 nm.
The rubber industry is the major consumer of carbon black while the greatest quantity of carbon
black is used in automotive tires. Therefore, the tire industrys requirements and specifications
for carbon black are a major focus for the research team. Tire manufacturers traditionally use
ASTM grades N220 (20-25 nm; 110-140 m2/g) and N330 (26-30 nm; 70-90 m2/g). However,
semi-reinforcing carbon black (ASTM grade N770) with a typical diameter range of 61-100 nm
and surface area of 17-35 m2/g has been used for tire carcasses.
The carbon black recovered from the tire recycling plant is consistently free of hydrocarbons.
No residual odor or oily appearance indicative of hydrocarbon residue has been apparent in the
recovered samples. The carbon black tends to be very granular and has a high bulk density. In
addition, no residual polymer was present in the carbon black recovered. The average BET

surface area of the carbon black was measured to be 25.31 m2/g as noted in Table 2. A sample
of the carbon black was analyzed by inductively coupled plasma (ICP) to determine the percent
ash/contaminant content (ASTM D 482) and to identify the contaminants (Table 2).
Table 2. Composition of Carbon Black
Metals by ICP

ppm

Metals by ICP

ppm

Aluminum

205

Molybdenum

Antimony

<1.0

Nickel

Arsenic

<1.0

Phosphorus

210

Barium

16

Potassium

301

56

Beryllium

<1.0

Selenium

<1.0

Bismuth

<1.0

Silicon

1960

Silver

<1.0

Boron

16

Cadmium

<1.0

Sodium

Calcium

9333

Strontium

<1.0

Thallium

<1.0

Chromium

40

Cobalt

<1.0

Copper

44

Iron
Lead
Magnesium

1600
69
533

330

Tin

Titanium

962

Vanadium

26

Zinc
Ash Content, ASTM D 482, wt %

45,866
8.12

The ash content in the carbon black was higher than desired (8.12 wt%). Tire manufacturers
prefer carbon black that contains less than 5 wt% impurities. However, the carbon black can be
treated to remove ash or can be activated, which would improve both its quality and its value.
Activated carbon is the generic term used to describe a family of carbonaceous adsorbents with a
highly crystalline form and extensively developed internal pore structure. A wide variety of
activated carbon products are produced exhibiting markedly different characteristics depending
upon the raw material and the activation technique used in their production. Activated carbon is
tested for several of the same properties as those for carbon black including surface area, pore
size distribution, iodine absorption, and bulk density. Porosity is what distinguishes activated
carbon from carbon blacks.

4. MARKETS
Carbon black is an essential chemical in many industries throughout the world and has
applications in rubber, plastics, coating, inks, and toners. The rubber industry consumes
approximately 90% of the $4.5 billion carbon black market; approximately 66% of all carbon

black is consumed by tires while another 9.5% of carbon black is used in other automotive
applications. Carbon black production is typically located in geographical areas where it is used.
The projected demand for these products is shown in Figure 4.
P rojected C Y 2001 D em an d for C arb on B lack
7.8 M illio n M etric Tons

O ther R egions
15%

N orth A m erica
26%

O ther
A sia/P acific
19%

Japan
11%

C hina
12%

W estern
E urope
17%

Figure 4. Carbon black demand for tire applications


The current applications for activated carbon are overwhelming, and there is high demand for the
material in various industries. In fact, activated carbon is commonly used in many domestic and
industrial applications ranging from simple shoe insole deodorizers to the manufacturing of
complex industrial chemicals. Examples are given in Tables 3 and 4 for its different applications
in various industries as well as its suitability for an assortment of vapor phase and liquid phase
applications.
4.1 Economic Analysis
A detailed economic model has been developed to fully understand and analyze the economics of
the tire recycling process and business requirements for collecting and processing scrap tires.
The model is based upon a single-site processing facility with a capacity of 100-tons/day and
operating 330 days per year. The model allows for varying the number of collection sites,
transportation, equipment, site development, operation and maintenance (O&M) expenses, and
other associated costs. Varying the sale price of the reclaimed carbon black is also possible. In
the model, no value is given to gaseous hydrocarbons produced in the tertiary recycling process;
rather, it is assumed that all gases would be used as fuel for cogeneration equipment to offset
process utility costs. Liquid products would be sold on the commodities market. The model was
developed using a Microsoft Excel Ver. 5.0TM workbook format. The model allows the user to
change a variety of input variables and observe the sensitivity of the economic projections to the
selected changes.
Inputs to the economic model include amounts paid for scrap tires (positive or negative), amount
of scrap collected, transportation costs, specific O&M costs, capital costs, size-reduction costs,
waste disposal costs, inflation rate, interest rate, minimum attractive rate of return (MARR),
percent investment borrowed, income tax rate, and process products and their market value.
Also, one can vary the number of processing facilities. Model outputs include initial investment

Table 3. Vapor Phase Applications of Activated Carbon


Industry

Description

Typical Use

Solvent Recovery

Recovery of organic solvents to


optimize economics and
control vapor emissions

Acetate fibers (acetone),


pharmaceuticals (methylene
chloride), film coating and printing
(ethyl acetate), magnetic tape
(MEK)

Carbon Dioxide

Purification of carbon dioxide


from fermentation processes

Adsorption of alcohols and amines

Industrial Respirators

Adsorption of organic vapors

To meet CEN 141 standards- Type


A respirators

Waste Disposal

Disposal of domestic, chemical


and clinical waste by hightemperature incineration

Removal of heavy metals and


dioxins from flue gas

Cigarettes

Incorporation as powder or
granule in filter tips

Extraction of some harmful


elements of cigarette smoke

Air Conditioning

HVAC

Airports (partially combusted fuel


odors), offices, fume cupboards

Composite Fibers

Impregnation of powdered
activated carbon into foam/
fiber/non-woven substances

Air treatment for face masks and


respirators, shoe insole deodorizers
and water treatment

Refrigerator Deodorizers

In-situ filter units

Removal of food odors

costs; annual O&M, transportation, and processing expenses; revenues and gross profit; margin
on annual revenue (MAR); and internal rate of return (IRR). Also, output information, such as
present worth (PW), future worth (FW), and annual worth (AW based upon the MARR) are
provided by the model.
The economic model provides an accurate estimate of the economic feasibility of the tertiary tire
recycling process. If an investor were to commit funds today toward a proposed recycling
business, a return on those funds would be expected. The future return is in the form of income
generated by the sale of the output products recovered from the recycling process as determined
from the characterization and market analysis work. These cash flows (e.g., capital costs, O&M
expenses, revenues), which we call incremental cash flows, represent the change in the investors
total cash flow that occurs as a direct result of the investment in the tertiary recycling process.

Table 4. Liquid Phase Applications of Activated Carbon


Industry

Description

Typical Use

Potable Water Treatment

Granular activated carbons


installed in rapid gravity
filters

Removal of dissolved organic


contaminants, control of odor and
taste problems

Soft Drinks

Sterilization with chlorine

Chlorine removal and adsorption


of dissolved organic contaminants

Brewing

Potable water treatment

Removal of trihalomethanes and


phenolics

Semi-conductors

Ultra-high-purity water

Total organic carbon reduction

Gold Recovery

Operation of carbon in
leach, carbon in pulp and
heap leach circuits

Recovery of gold from tailings


dissolved in sodium cyanide

Petrochemical

Recycling of steam
condensate for boiler feed
water

Removal of oil and hydrocarbon


contamination

Groundwater

Industrial contamination of
groundwater reserves

Reduction of total organic


halogens and adsorbable organic
halogens

Industrial Wastewater

Process effluent treatment


to meet environmental
legislation

Reduction of total organic


halogens, biological oxygen and
chemical oxygen demand

Swimming Pools

Ozone injection for removal


of organic contaminants

Removal of residual ozone and


control of chloramines levels

A recycling facility with an input of 100 tons of scrap tires per day would produce gaseous and
liquid hydrocarbons and metals and activated carbon which, when separated, would have a
commercial value of about $361/ton. The economics of such a recycling plant operating 330
days annually are projected in Table 5.
Table 5. Economic Projections for a 100-Ton/Day Processing Plant
Revenue

11,917,125

Operating Expense

3,450,670

Gross Profit

8,467,455

Depreciation Expense (10-year straight line)

782,652

Net Profit Before Taxes

7,684,803

5. CONCLUSIONS
Tertiary recycling of scrap tires has proven to be an economical solution to the waste tire
disposal problem. In this process, hydrocarbon gases and liquids, steel, and high-value carbon
black are recovered for reuse. The gaseous hydrocarbons are used to generate heat and
electricity for the recycling process. Liquid hydrocarbons are a high-quality fuel oil that can be
used directly or further refined to improve value. Reclaimed steel is readily recycled and is
desired by steel mills because of its high surface-to-volume ratio. As produced, the carbon black
has ready markets for reinforcing rubbers and plastics, or as an active ingredient in inks, toners,
or paints. The carbon black may be further increased in value by chemical treatment to either
remove ash content or activate it for use in filtration applications. The keys to process
economics are obtaining value from all the components in the scrap and using a high volume
(100-ton/day) continuous process. Eighty such plants would be needed in the US alone to
process the scrap tires generated annually without processing any of the three billion tires already
present in dumps throughout the country.

6. REFERENCES
1.

J. R. Serumgard, A. L. Eastman, Scrap Tire Recycling: Regulatory and Market


Development Progress, ACS Symposium Series 1995, 609, pp. 237-244.

2.

Scrap Tire News, , 14 (5), 4 (May 2000).

3.

Scrap Tire News, 14 (7), 8 (July 2000).

4.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, (Region 5), Scrap Tire Handbook: Effective
Management Alternatives to Scrap Tire Disposal in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota,
Ohio, and Wisconsin, 1994.

5.

M. Farrell and D. Block, Funding Innovative Uses for Scrap Tires, BioCycle, March
1999, pp. 61-63.

6.

C. P. Rader and M. A. Lemieux, The Recycle of Plastics and Rubber- A Contrast, Rubber
World, May 1997.

7.

G.A. Mackey, Thermolysis, Chemolysis, and Gasification as Advanced Recycling


Technology for Waste Plastic, 208th Amn Chem Soc Mtg, Washington, DC, Aug 1994.