Tire derived fuels are not new. 92% of Japan’s discarded tires are used in creating fuel. The US uses about 40% of it’s stockpiled waste tires in energy production. European nations are beginning to see the benefits of tire recycling but are lagging behind the US at 22%.
Discarded tires are a problem. Not only are they unsightly, many believe that they harbor critters that can carry disease. Mice and rats as well as mosquitoes are on the watch list. And when they burn…they really burn. Sometimes they burn for months or even years at a time.
Tires produce more than 12,000 to 16,000 BTU’s compared to coal that generates only 12,000 BTU’s. Wood only produces about 5000 BTU’s per pound of wood. It’s safe to say that TDF are cost effective. When tires are stock piled in junk yards, they have the potential to burn, When they burn they put off a lot of heat that doesn’t benefit anyone and the smoke may be harmful to residents near the fire.
That doesn’t mean that TDF doesn’t have it’s detractors. Tire fires that are uncontrolled contribute to air and ground pollution. Critics cite the sulfur by product that they believe is being released into the atmosphere. But studies have shown that tires incinerated in cement kilns produce the same sulphur content, or lower, than that of coal.
Those environmental concerns need to be balanced with the fact that tires will continue to stockpile. Other countries that are becoming more industrialized and that are adding cars to their economies will also need to dispose of or recycle their tires. Many of these second and third world nations would benefits from the savings of recycling tires into heat rather than just adding to the stockpile of used tires.
That puts the United States into the unique position of being a leading example of how we can benefit from tire recycling. Rubber tires are unique in the fact that they can be recycled into many different things, many different times. Tires can be retreaded, used as insulation, made into ground cover, in concrete projects, and in compression molding. Once those products have lived out their usefulness, they can be recast into something else, used as an additive or burned for fuel.
But for nations that are not able to meet their need for energy and fuel, tire recycling can help. The US already recycles about 14% of our used tires. If we can increase that number, we can help ourselves and other nations with current and future energy needs. If we can give them the benefit of our technology, they can add a new resource for energy without adding to air pollution.
This technology is fairly inexpensive. If their only interest is in producing energy, a large chip shredder may be all that’s needed to provide them with energy. US companies may be able to export chips and/or the machines to do the work. Either way, it’s an opportunity for the US to solve our own problem and to help other nations at the same time.