WASHINGTON — Companies involved in rubber recycling continued to make major strides forward in 2017, just as rubber businesses in other areas advanced their programs in recycling and sustainability.
Recycled rubber products, such as recovered carbon black, also achieved new hallmarks of success. Governmental action was mixed for the recycling industry, however, as some government entities continued to doubt the environmental effects of recycled rubber products.
In the corporate realm, German firm Pyrolyx A.G. and Seattle-based Reklaim Inc. announced a joint venture in January to make recovered carbon black from scrap tires in North America.
Pyrolyx owns 81 percent of the joint venture, which is called Pyrolyx USA Inc., and Reklaim's top management team runs the venture. Reklaim put its plant in Boardman, Ore., up for auction in late summer, just as Pyrolyx broke ground on a recovered carbon black facility in Terre Haute, Ind.
Another recovered carbon black company, Waste to Energy Partners, announced in February a name change to Bolder Industries.
That same month, Bolder opened what it called a first-of-its-kind facility, Maryville Carbon Solutions, in Maryville, Mo.
In June, Ontario-based scrap tire devulcanization company Tyromer Inc. received a $3.4 million grant from Canada's Automotive Supplier Innovation Program to equip a new production plant in Oldcastle, Ontario.
Also in June, Castleton Commodities International L.L.C., a Stamford, Conn.-based global commodities merchant, purchased a majority interest in recovered carbon black processor Delta-Energy Group L.L.C.
Swedish recovered carbon black processor Enviro Systems Inc. signed a memorandum of understanding in March with state-owned Chinese firm Vanlead Group to build a recycling plant in southern China.
In October, Enviro announced it was the only final candidate in a tender offer to build a 30,000-metric-tons-per-year recycling plant in Guangzhou for Vanlead.
In October, Michelin North America Inc. acquired Lehigh Technologies Inc., a manufacturer of engineered rubber powders from recycled rubber, for an undisclosed sum.
Not all recycling companies, however, had positive news to report. Titan Tire Reclamation Corp., which uses thermal reactors to transform scrap mining tires into oil, steel and carbon black, suffered a processing-related fire at its facility in Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Sept. 21.
Among recycled rubber product lines and organizations, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) announced in May it would absorb the Recycled Rubber Council, an association for recycled rubber manufacturers, and take over its missions and activities.
In April, ISRI also unveiled an international Scrap Trade Database that provides information on the international scrap trade.
ASTM — the international standards organization — formed ASTM Committee D36, Recovered Carbon Black, the biggest step forward so far toward commercialization of the material. Committee D36 held its first meeting in Brussels March 23.
This announcement followed closely on that of Artis, the materials consultancy arm of Avon Rubber P.L.C., aiming to bring together recyclers, materials producers and end-users over sustainability issues. Most of the group's activities would be focused on recovered carbon black, it said.
France and the United Kingdom had opposing reports on the progress of scrap tire recycling in their countries.
Aliapur, the French end-of-life tire management company, reported in April it gathered a record number of scrap tires in 2016 — 334,597 metric tons, the equivalent of 44.2 million passenger tires.
On the other hand, the U.K.'s Tyre Recovery Association and the National Tyre Distributors Association reported in April that due to a combination of regulatory changes and market conditions, tire recycling costs were rising alarmingly throughout he nation.
Legislative and regulatory issues continued to be a concern for scrap tire recyclers in 2017, although state agencies also were a source of benefits to the industry.
In February, the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association and ISRI successfully opposed two bills before the Connecticut legislature that would have created Extended Producer Responsibility systems for all recycling industries in the state, including tire recycling.
In California, two complicated scrap tire bills changed provisions considerably during months of negotiations before losing steam at the end of the legislative session.
One would have replaced the state's current recycling grants program with a Tire Recycling Incentive Program to pay scrap tire processors, and also have added a new $1 per-tire fee in addition to the current $1.75 fee.
Meanwhile, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) continued to issue grants to municipalities that plan road repairs using rubber-modified asphalt. CalRecycle announced $2.36 million worth of grants to 20 cities in May.
Also in May, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill to define waste tires to prevent their being sold as used tires.
In Canada, Ontario Tire Stewardship announced in March that it would cease operations at year-end 2018. A government-mandated, producer-responsibility system would replace the OTS, Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray announced.
This did not, however, prevent the OTS from making grants to fund recycled rubber projects during 2017.
This included the use of 854 recycled tires to redesign a community space in Toronto, with students from Sheridan College Industrial Design and University of Toronto Landscape Design directing the project.
The Newfoundland Multi-Materials Stewardship Board announced in July that it signed a contract with C&D Recycling of Goodwood, Nova Scotia, to process approximately 2,000 metric tons of scrap tires into tire-derived aggregate.
Finally, rubber playground surfacing played a role in a U.S. Supreme Court case whose central point was whether religious groups could receive state grants.
In 2012, the Trinity Lutheran Church Child Learning Center in Columbia, Mo., applied to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for funding to install pour-in-place rubber playground surfacing at the school.
The DNR denied the grant, saying it violated the state constitution's rule against providing direct financial assistance to a church.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in the church's favor.
"The exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, simply because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority.