When you type TDF into Google, you find a whole lot more about the Tour de France than the tire recycling process. This is one of the few articles dedicated to the other TDF, Tire Derived Fuel. If you are as interested in this alternative fuel as we are, keep reading to find out more about the exciting possibilities.

Tire Derived Fuel Explained

Tire recycling plants produce a variety of end products. Each facility can decide how much to process end-of-life tires depending on the desired result. Processing tires into powder rubber requires multiple tire shredders, grinders, and separators, while creating tire chips only needs one or two pieces of equipment. TDF is one of the least processed outputs of tire recycling plants. Generally, whole tires are put through primary shredders, creating three-inch chips ready for use as fuel.

Tire-derived fuel accounts for nearly half of all outputs in the tire recycling world. Rubber products, asphalt construction, and artificial turfs make up the other half. Why is TDF such a popular output product? It’s easy to make, needed in many big industries, and has several environmental benefits compared to burning fossil fuels.

Fossil Fuels

Everyone knows the story of fossil fuels. Manufacturers fell in love with their efficient energy production. Now, because of their effect on the climate, countries and economies are in the midst of a long, difficult breakup. Alternative fuels and electricity production systems are the main pathways to using fewer fossil fuels. Since none of the current alternative energy sources can fill the gap alone, a diverse range of more sustainable resources are being used, including hydroelectric, wind, and solar power.

Filling this gap is where TDF comes into play. In some ways, it is similar to fossil fuels, while in others, it is much more sustainable. To get the complete picture, let’s break the comparison down into five key factors

1. Emissions:

For every kilogram of coal used as fuel, 2.42 kg of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Coal and other mined fuels are also known to produce high amounts of sulfur and nitrogen dioxide, and ash.

Tire-derived fuel produces carbon dioxide, too, but lower sulfur, nitrogen, and ash levels.

2. Source

Fossil fuels, as the name suggests, come from deep underground. Whether it’s an oil rig out at sea or an open coal mine, sourcing fossil fuels means digging, drilling, or fracking into the earth. One of the fundamental issues with using fossil fuels is that they are non-renewable. We are using a resource that is not being replenished. Eventually, we will deplete the natural stores in the earth.

TDF is sourced from end-of-life tires that would otherwise end up in landfills and tire piles. Tires are an especially toxic waste product. They become homes for rodents, breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes, and are incredibly difficult to extinguish in the chance of a fire.

By creating TDF, tire recycling companies reduce the amount of dangerous waste disposed of in landfills and the amount of fossil fuels mined from the earth.

3. Energy Output

One of the most surprising facts about TDF is the energy efficiency of burning tires. Tire-derived fuel has a similar energy output as petroleum – one of the best fossil fuels for producing electricity.

Energy is often measured in BTUs (British thermal units). One BTU is roughly equal to the heat required to increase the temperature of one pound of water by one degree measure in Fahrenheit. On average, coal produces around 12,000 BTU per pound. On the other hand, TDF provides 16,000 BTUs per pound, meaning less is required to produce the same amount of energy.

4. Dioxins and Furan Levels:

There’s a rumor that TDF burning releases more dioxin and furan emissions than regular fossil fuels. Dioxins and Furans are a category of chemicals known to cause adverse health effects in animals and humans. In general, they are found in extremely small amounts. Sources include:

  • Burning municipal and medical waste
  • Burning plastics
  • Iron and steel production
  • Tobacco smoke

As of yet, there is no scientific consensus on whether TDF increases or decreases Dioxin and Furan levels, with some studies showing contradictory results.

5. Price

Not surprisingly, TDF is more affordable than traditional fossil fuels. This is because TDF is a secondary recycling product of old tires. Oil, gas, and coal are all primary resources that need to be mined and processed to create a usable fuel source.

Fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource and are often sourced in unsustainable ways. TDF, on the other hand, is created from a waste product. Thus, sourcing TDF is very cost-effective. As fossil fuels are continually being subjected to stricter tax laws and regulations, their price will only become higher compared to TDF.

Looking Ahead:

Wind, solar, and hydropower are the gold standard of environmentally friendly energy production. However, each of these comes with its own impact on surrounding ecosystems. For example, hydropower requires large reservoirs to be formed where previously there were none, and wind turbines can interfere with migrating birds.

TDF comes with its share of pros and cons, but overall it is a more efficient, sustainable, and cheaper fuel than fossil fuels. It has been used as a fuel source for 40 years now, and with climate change forcing industries to do without fossil fuels, it will become more popular in the future.