The Brazilian construction industry consumes about 32,750 tonnes of steel and polymer fibres every year for use in concrete as a reinforcement or admixture. Meanwhile, an estimated 24,836 tonnes of steel wire and polymer fibre are recovered annually from end-of-life tyres as by-products of tyre recycling. These materials are agglomerated with a high rubber content and cannot be reused in their current state and usually end up in landfill. In the UK, Twincon Ltd in partnership with the University of Sheffield has developed techniques and a unique facility that turns low value tyre wire into a high value product to replace virgin steel fibre reinforcement in concrete. This project aims to transfer and adapt this technology to Brazil, and to undertake research to allow similar techniques to be developed for the reuse of tyre polymer fibre. This project will allow the adoption of more sustainable construction practices, will impact positively on the environment and on the health and safety of workers employed in the tyre recycling industry, significantly reduce the use of virgin raw material and create wealth and jobs for the Brazilian people.
Within the framework of this project, processes, equipment and techniques will be developed for the cleaning, separation, characterisation, classification and integration (in concrete) of waste fibre reinforcement derived as by-products from the recycling of end-of-life tyres. This will significantly reduce the large volumes of tyre steel and polymer reinforcements, which are a rapidly growing and highly problematic waste stream arising from the tyre recycling industry in both Brazil and the UK. Steel and polymer reinforcements used in tyre manufacture are of very high quality. However, the way they are currently extracted leaves them contaminated with rubber and too tangled to be reused. In the UK, Twincon Ltd has developed techniques and a unique facility to clean and characterise the tyre wires to produce a product called RTSF (Reused Tyre Steel Fibre) which can be used as a direct replacement for manufactured steel fibre. Such technologies do not exist in Brazil but are urgently needed by Twincon, which currently has to export RTSF to the Brazil branch of its mother company Twintec for use in the construction of industrial floor slabs. The proposed collaboration will enable the knowledge transfer, adaption and development of this technology in Brazil. This project also aims to undertake research to allow similar techniques to be developed for the other tyre recycling by-product, polymer fibre, which is flammable, easily carried away by wind, expensive to transport and store due to its low density and very contaminated with rubber. This project will lead to the development of a new fibre product RTPF (Reused Tyre Polymer Fibre) eventually for manufacture in both Brazil and the UK.
The development of the reused fibre products will not only deliver sustainable solutions and economic benefits to the tyre recycling and construction industries, but also improve the welfare of Brazil’s population by reducing waste; reducing the use of virgin raw material; lowering CO2 emissions; providing sustainable infrastructure and greener and cheaper construction; improving the quality of life and health and safety of those who live close to and/or work in tyre recycling plants. Finding a high-value use of the tyre recycling by-products will also motivate the collection of waste tyres, leading to long-term benefits to society (e.g. lowering risk of diseases transmitted by mosquitos growing in the water accumulated in piled waste tyres) and the environment and facilitating growth (jobs, revenue and diversity) of the tyre recycling industry. Beside the benefits to Brazil, this project will also enable a UK business to extend its market to Brazil and to develop innovative technologies to extend its product range.