Processing more than 26 million tyres over the past 16 years has resulted in Australian tyre recycling specialist Tyre Crumb saving environmentally hazardous material from landfill and repurposing them for use in roads and sports fields.
In order to make sure the best product is produced, it is important to make sure the equipment doing the sorting is up to scratch and robust enough to keep up with the demanding throughput.
Steve Matousis is the Managing Director of the family-owned business, based in Broadmeadows, Victoria. Before starting Tyre Crumb, Steve did his research on what equipment was needed to run the plant successfully.
“We spent a few years researching the industry and we felt that there was a need for a tyre recycler in the area,” Steve says. “We travelled to Europe and America looking at different plants. We felt confident with the Eldan line. It was proven technology, which gave us comfort.”
Steve is referring to Eldan’s E4000 tyre shredding line, which Tyre Crumb has used since the company’s inception.
It is a complete line, which means from start to finish it carries out all the functions necessary, from the processing, the shredding, the granulation of the product through to the separation of the rubber, steel, and fibre. Tyre Crumb was one of the first companies to separate all three components of a tyre at once.
Process about 150 tyres per hour
A person first loads the tyres into the line’s feeder system. It then goes into the first primary shred. That shred cuts it down to size before going into another conveyor and fed into a rasper. It then reduces the rubber to about 20- or 15-millimetre pieces depending on what the customer wants. At this stage the machine separates the steel from the rubber utilising a suction system and goes into a granulator. There are five magnets in place to make sure all steel is taken out of the rubber.
“Because we sell some of the rubber to the sports industry, we don’t want any steel in it,” Steve says. “Once that is done, it will be shredded down from six to four millimetres. It is all automated and goes onto a sorting machine. Once it reaches there, if there are any pieces that are over four millimetres, they will go back to the start, and it will begin again until they are the right size.”
Using the system, Tyre Crumb can process about 150 tyres an hour. It takes between three to four people to run the Eldan E4000. Steve sees it as an efficient way to get the repurposed tyres into a form that can be sold on. He is impressed with a lot of the features, especially when it comes to the safety of staff.
“The line more or less talks to itself,” he says. “This means if there is an overload, the feed slows down until the load is lighter. It has an internal temperature probe and spark warning system. If there are any spot fires, it puts them out as well. This happens because sometimes, as you are separating the steel from the rubber, there are sparks that can set it alight, which is why it has an internal temperature probe and a spray of water. The beauty of the equipment is also that there are safety markers. If it goes above 80˚C, the alarm will sound before it goes any higher. It has many safety measures in place.”
Recycling rubber into new products
Currently, there is no shortage of supply, as Australia produces approximately 42 million used tyres annually. Once they have been processed, they then start their secondary life, which can be in a variety of different industries.
“The sports industry uses the rubber on their artificial pitches,” Steve says. “We supply the size they want – it might be three or four millimetres or even powder form. It goes into sports fields and is used in situ, which means it is laid down and mixed with glue to lay it underneath the synthetic grass. Others like to use it as infill in the synthetic grass. We also sell to the playground industry as well where it is laid in situ.
“For roading, there is a process where you bring the size down to what we call a 30 mesh, which is a nominal size of 0.6 millimetres that is a powder form. That is what we sell to the bitumen industry, usually over a six-month period. This is because they require the summer period to spray fill the road in the cracks. It helps reduce the glare. There are a lot of benefits to it.”
A true partnership
Steve says Tyre Crumb sees its relationship with Eldan as more of a partnership than one of client/ customer. This is reinforced when he talks of the collaboration between the companies over the cracker mill, which is used to reduce the rubber to powder form. It works via two big rollers that grind together, tear the rubber, and grinds a four-metre to 10-millimetre piece of rubber down to powder.
“We taught them how to run the cracker system,” Steve says. “They flew us to Denmark and Germany – Tyre Crumb’s operations manager and myself – for a 10-day visit to show them how to put a cracker mill together and fine tune it. Now they can sell a complete line with a cracker mill.”
Is the Eldan E4000 system one hard to operate? Not really, says Steve, although it does take some time to get somebody up to scratch.
“The equipment is easy to operate once you get used to it,” he says. “You learn as you go. If we need a new person to learn the system, we always use a supervisor and bring another guy in and get him to run it during the day shift. It’ll take us a good three months to teach them properly.
“If there are any issues, it’s an easy email or a phone call and Eldan get back to us. There is a time difference, but they are very supportive, and they are always looking at ways to improve the system as well.”