A new rubberised asphalt which uses recycled waste tyres has been launched by Tarmac in the UK. The leading sustainable building materials and construction solutions business is the first in the UK to develop a new asphalt technology capable of recycling end-of-life tyres (ELTs) into roads.
With 40 million waste tyres produced every year in the UK, the company has created an innovative asphalt mix using granulated rubber. Tarmac estimates that it will be possible to recycle and reuse up to 750 waste tyres for every kilometre of highway surfaced with the new material, depending on the thickness of the road. The amount of granulated rubber used for each stretch of road would depend on the thickness required, Tarmac states, although the average ratio would be one tyre for each tonne of asphalt.
As well as the environmental benefits associated with using rubber in asphalt, Tarmac’s technical director, Brian Kent, told Autocar UK that the capacity of rubber to absorb movement will reduce the risk of roads cracking.
Although more sustainable than existing processes, rubberising asphalt has proven to be more expensive overall. The cost of securing, breaking down and mixing the rubber with the asphalt outweighs any saving made by using the waste material.
Tarmac currently recycles a claimed 8.7 million tonnes of waste from other industries each year, including using waste tyres to fuel cement kilns.
The initiative is part of Tarmac’s commitment to the circular economy, with the business recycling 8.7 million tonnes of waste from other industries every year. It also builds on the company’s reuse of waste tyres to power its cement kilns and its commitment as a net user of waste.
Brian Kent, technical director at Tarmac, said: “While plastic recycling has attracted media headlines, used tyres remain a significant and overlooked waste stream and our new innovative rubber modified asphalts offer a more sustainable option for our industry and the environment.
“Rubber is used in asphalt across the USA, but in the UK there is a lack of the necessary industrial infrastructure required to allow manufacture of this type of material. Against the backdrop of major investment in the strategic road network there is now an opportunity to leverage this technology and unlock the benefits of this circular economic approach.”
As part of recent trials of the new material, Tarmac supplied asphalt with rubber in Coventry.
The Tyre Recovery Association commented: “While there has been significant progress in reusing and recycling waste tyres in the UK, there is still an over-reliance on the export of used tyres to countries such as China, India and Pakistan, who are importing fewer tyres as they become self-sufficient.
“The UK needs a second disposal route for used tyres. Tarmac’s commitment to developing rubberised asphalt provides an excellent opportunity to achieve this and deliver environmental savings for this under-used waste stream.”