PITTSBURGHDespite the weak economy, the recycled rubber market is seeing modest improvement and should continue to grow, especially in the rubberized asphalt area.
Jeffrey Kendall, CEO of Liberty Tire Recycling L.L.C., made that assessment in a recent exclusive interview with Tire Business in which he noted that although the use of rubber in asphalt has been impacted by state budgets, its overall acceptability for use throughout the U.S. and Canada has grown significantly during the last year or so.
This could and should be a terrific growth market.
Rubberized asphalt remains the recycled rubber market with the greatest potential, Mr. Kendall said.
Devulcanization, despite its adherents, doesn't appear to be on the horizon yet as a commercial application, according to Mr. Kendall. The various methods to break rubber down into fuel and carbon black do seem to have big potential, he said, based on the effort devoted to them.
The number of individuals attempting this is in the many dozens, he said. No one seems to have found a successful way to implement this strategy, but many are trying hard.
The weak economy and high gas prices have reduced the generation of scrap tires, because of fewer miles driven and the resulting drop in replacement tire sales, he said.
There also has been downward pressure on prices for some recycled rubber products. This was caused partly by weak demand for crumb rubber in Europe, which caused a European crumb producer to export crumb to the U.S. at low prices, he said.
Crumb rubber for molded goods is growing nicely and should continue to grow, according to Mr. Kendall. The rubber infill market dipped about 20 percent in 2009 and has never really rebounded, but he said it has held more or less steady ever since.
However, tire-derived fuel (TDF), despite some recent troubles, has been growing modestly over the past several years, Mr. Kendall said.
Some users have come online, while others have typically gone out of business. The combination with lower gas and coal prices has produced a net stable environment.
The cement kiln marketa mainstay of TDFsuffered greatly in the recession, he said.
However, as construction and investment in infrastructure comes back, so will the kilns, he predicted. We expect usage of tires in kilns to approximate levels in the first part of the 2000s.
Pittsburgh-based Liberty Tire has always positioned itself to best take advantage of current and future trends in the recycled rubber market, according to Mr. Kendall.
We focus first on servicing our collection customers, he said. Without the tires, we cannot participate in the other markets.
Beyond that, we continue to improve our production capacity and quality to meet market demand. We have an excellent market development and sales team, constantly on the lookout for new uses of recycled rubber.
To reach this reporter: [email protected] crain.com; 202-662-7211.