LOUISVILLE, Ky.-The future for scrap rubber usage is anything but crumby, based on comments at an International Tire and Rubber Association (ITRA) forum on tire and rubber recycling. At the Louisville trade show, recycling company representatives who comprise the ITRA's year-old Tire and Rubber Recycling Advisory Council (TRRAC) provided an industry overview flavored with advice and optimism.
The council also took time to pat itself on the back for being ``an important forum'' to access and disseminate facts within the indus-try, as well as dispel rumors and misinformation.
During a roundtable discussion, TRRAC members covered a number of industry issues, including:
Several forum participants, including Charles Astafan, sales director for Columbus McKinnon Corp., noted that the establish-ment of TRRAC ``finally provides the tire and rubber recycling industry with a voice. It's important we come together as a group, and TRRAC is (that) vehicle.
``A lot of people in this industry think their problems are unique to only them. Through TRRAC, they find they're often industry-wide problems.''
In order to establish some com-mon industry-wide definitions about recycling, TRRAC recently published and began selling at the ITRA conference a 25-page ``Scrap Tire and Rubber Recycling'' glos-sary. It contains 80 key terms, such as cryogenics, devulcanization and depolymerization, char, pyrolysis, tread peels and others.
Based on assessments by several TRRAC members, crumb rubber markets currently are in an expansion mode, with the biggest growth being in tire-derived fuel (TDF), followed by usage in products as diverse as playground equipment, flooring, lumber, and ground coverings.
``In America, we're finally realizing that recycling is good,'' said Michael Rouse, who is president and CEO of Rouse Rubber Industries Inc.
The inclusion of recycled rubber-which he called a ``phenomenal material''-is improving a number of products.
When it comes to utilizing crumb rubber or tire chips in roadways-either as roadbed filler, or in asphalt rubber-Mr. Rouse said state officials move ``at glacial speeds in accepting these applications, though we've had some real successes.''
The nation's roads are deteriorating at an accelerated rate, he said, due in part to increasing vehicle usage. While Mr. Rouse claimed rubber modifiers in asphalt demonstrate superior qualities vs. a number of other polymers, he charged that ``the pavement association is scared of new technologies'' because rubberized roadways have been proven to last up to 12 years longer than standard asphalt.
Recently, the practice of using tire chips as roadbed fill has received a blackened reputation.
Tiffany Hughes, vice president of American Tire Recyclers, which produces playground equipment and soil amendment products from recycled rubber, mentioned two Washington State roads where tire chip fills have caught fire.
She said she has received numerous calls from customers ``worried that their playground equipment or soil would spontaneously combust,'' as those roadbeds have.
The scrap tire fill in at least one of the smoldering roads has been removed.
Ms. Hughes noted that 40 percent of her company's market share is in the sale of playground material, which also is being used in many Florida parks and equestrian pathways.
``It truly has many benefits,'' she said, ``and the kids love it.''
Still, crumb rubber products don't sell themselves, she told the forum audience consisting mostly of producers of recycled materials and products.
``You have to get out there, knock on doors, do the promotion, the marketing, the brochures,'' Ms. Hughes advised. ``Then (the product) will sell.''
TRRAC member Jan Winsborough, CEO of The Tire Recyclers, a Caspar, Wyo.-based scrap tire processor, said a ``lot of people are considering getting into crumb rubber production. But we need specifications industry wide-a set of technical standards.
``Otherwise, the industry could be set back 30 years.''
Rather than for TRRAC to ``reinvent the wheel'' by itself, Mr. Rouse reported that the council is working in conjunction with the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM), which is currently conducting field and in-lab tests to develop such standards.
The trend in the marketplace in tire-derived fuel is toward smaller and smaller chips, according to Mr. Astafan.
``The question is not what the industry standard is-a number of burners of TDF have different size needs-but to provide the size your customers need,'' he said.
Ken Kirby, president of AZ Tire, a scrap tire collector, urged TDF producers to determine whether ``the material you produce is marketable in the size you make it.''
Mr. Astafan added that if customers are changing their TDF size requirements, ``you have to ask them why, so you can be more adaptable to their needs.''
TDF ``is a growing industry and has a positive value as a fuel,'' said Mary Sikora, an ITRA tire recycling consultant who operates the Recycling Research Institute, Suffield, Conn.
``But size usage is customer driven,'' she said, so in order to be successful, companies must be able to provide multiple sizes of TDF for multiple markets.