A Melbourne-based tyre recycling start-up has been named as Australia’s first ever finalist in the US-based Edison Awards, one of the world’s top gongs for cleantech innovation.
Green Distillation Technologies is in the process of commercialising its technology that converts 90 per cent of a discarded car and truck tyres into saleable carbon, oil and steel, having successfully tested it at a pilot plant in Warren, NSW.
GDT CEO Craig Dunn, who will attend the award ceremony in New York next week, said that the international recognition of its achievement was welcome.
Some 24 million end-of-life tyres are estimated to be produced in Australia each year, but recycling options have been limited due to high cost of production, an inability to achieve high sale pricing and the saturation of substitute products in the market.
“Barriers to entry into the end-of-life tyre collection business are very low, and therefore the market is characterised by a large number of small collectors operating at very low margins,” GDT said in an 2012 interview.
“Since 2006, end-of-life tyre collectors in Australia have started to export them, predominantly to Vietnam, where they are further transported to China to be used as fuel for brick and cement kilns in direct contravention of the Basel Agreement on the transport of hazardous waste.”
“We started in 2009 to prove our technology and the capability of the process, which represents the ultimate in recycling old tyres and more importantly generate a positive cash flow by selling the resulting carbon, oil and steel,” Dunn said this week.
“The oil produced from the GDT process can be used as a heating fuel, direct into some stationary diesel engines or is capable of further refinement into automotive or aviation fuels, while the carbon is a high grade product that can replace those sourced from fossil fuels and the steel is returned directly to tyre manufacturers for reuse.”
As noted above, GDT’s distillation technology is super efficient, recovering 90 per cent of the input weight of the tyre feedstock in the form of saleable commodities.
GDT says it achieves this economy this by heating tyres in a vacuum, as opposed to a furnace, and as a result causing very little oxidisation. The remaining 10 per cent of the input is effectively consumed through partial exothermic oxidisation during the process.
“The process is not only emission free but the recycled oil is used as the heat source for the production process,” Dunn adds.
“It is the only process available in Australia that remanufactures the rubber from old tyres into a different energy form as the other recycling methods merely change the shape or appearance of the rubber.”
The company is in the process of upgrading its Warren plant to full production capable of processing 19,000 tonnes of tyres per year – the equivalent to about 3 per cent of end-of-life tyres generated in Australia each year.