Author:
Vegard Bringsjord
CFO & Co-founder

As the world’s population and the middle class in the developing nations are growing, so is the number of cars on the roads and consequently the number of tyres coming to the end of their useful lives. In the UK alone, more than 55 million car tyres (equal to ~600,000 metric tons) are classified as waste every year.

Some of those waste tyres is repurposed or recycled in their respective domestic markets, however a large portion is sent to locations where emission and waste disposal regulations are less stringent. According to customs data provided by the United Nations, the global trade in waste tyres has almost doubled over the last five years, with the majority of the trade flow going to developing countries such as India and Malaysia. The UK is the world’s biggest exporter of waste tyres, ahead of Italy and the United States.

In many countries, including the United States and China, most waste tyres are handled domestically and dumped in landfills, recycled or used as fuel for plants producing cement or paper. However, for many developed countries, it is a lot cheaper and (somehow) less controversial, to ship waste tyres abroad rather than to deal with them domestically.

Given the current sentiment and focus on environmental sustainability as well as import bans on waste being put in place by several southeast Asian countries (China banned the import of 24 kinds of solid waste at the start of 2018 and several of its neighbours quickly followed), it is only a matter of time before developed countries will have no option but to deal with their own waste domestically.

Wastefront AS is a Norwegian company specialised in the conversion of waste tyres to useful commodities. Drawing on a team with significant experience in technology, engineering and commercialisation, Wastefront developed a solution by combining proven technology and proprietary process.

Rather than burning waste tyres in production of cement or paper, Wastefront will send tyres through a pyrolytic reactor (for the non-technical reader: a big oven with no oxygen) with a catalyst (again for the non-technical reader: the secret sauce) to produce combustible gas, a liquid hydrocarbon, carbon ash and heat. Once out of the reactor, the gas will be circled back in to fuel the furnace, the liquid hydrocarbon will go through a refining process to clean and increase the value of product, the ash will be milled into Carbon Black (a substitute for natural rubber in tyre production) and the heat will be used in the locally for either industry or heating of residential areas.

Although waste tyres could be considered a problem comparable to single use plastic (there is a “tyre graveyard” in Kuwait which is visible from space), Wastefront believes that a solution to the problem is not only achievable, but also economically attractive and environmentally sustainable.