WASHINGTON — A new research project funded in part by the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Associaton (USTMA) will seek to determine the environmental impacts and benefits of using recycled tire rubber in asphalt.
The project is a joint effort by the USTMA and The Ray, a West Point, Ga.-based non-profit that calls itself a "a proving ground for the evolving ideas and technologies that will transform the transportation infrastructure of the future."
Research into using ground rubber, also known as crumb rubber, in asphalt will create what the collaborators are calling a "state of knowledge report" that will feature existing research but also identify gaps in data for the use of the material in rubber-modified asphalt.
The use of rubber-modified asphalt creates longer-lasting roads that rut less than traditional asphalt roads, proponents claim. Roads using recycled tires also are quieter and feature better vehicle grip and less spray in wet weather, a University of Arizona study indicates.
These roads also reduce tire and road wear particles by half. Including used tire material in roads allows asphalt to be recycled repeatedly.
"Recycling scrap tires to create rubber-modified asphalt appears to be a cost-effective way to reduce tire and road-wear particles and advance the circular economy," USTMA CEO Anne Forristall Luke said.
"This study will allow us to share what we know about the technology and what additional research is needed to build more sustainable roads and infrastructure."
The Ray is an offshoot of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. Mr. Anderson was the founder of Interface Inc., a carpet company. He created a name for himself by promoting environmentalism as part of his business strategy. Research will include laboratory and field data, including performance and lifecycle information of ground rubber.
Allie Kelly, executive director of The Ray, said the study's work will follow the same collaborative approach the non-profit has used at The Ray's 18-mile "living laboratory" along I-85 in Georgia to advance safety and sustainability.
"We look forward to sharing our results next year and continuing to explore ways to advance our goal of a net-zero highway system," she said.
Bill Buttlar, director of the Missouri Center for Transportation Innovation, will be in charge of the project.
"Rubber-modified asphalt has evolved into a very attractive sustainable paving solution, but potential adopters of the technology are often unaware of the latest developments and benefits," Mr. Buttlar said.
"We hope to address these shortcomings with a comprehensive, up-to-date state of knowledge report."
Harriet Anderson Langford is founder of The Ray and daughter of Ray Anderson. She sees a connection to the work Interface does with used carpeting and the need to find outlets for used tires.
"Scrap tires, like old carpet, can be upcycled across the country into higher performing roads that are quieter and last longer. This is one of those golden opportunities you look for, but rarely find," she said, noting that her father saved his company over $400 million over time by keeping carpet out of landfills.
The USTMA and The Ray plan to publish results of the work in 2021. An advisory panel that will include regulators, researchers and scientists will help guide the research.
Asphalt contractors and mix designers also will be involved to help create a better understanding of the challenges involved in wider adoption GTR. They also will help with data collection and analysis.
The USTMA represents 13 tire manufacturers with U.S.-based production capacity. They operate 57 tire-related factories in 17 states, generating over $27 billion in annualized sales revenue.