Boosting tyre recycling

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A multi-million rand investment in a rubber crumb manufacturing plant in Hammarsdale will take rubber tyre recycling to a whole new level in KwaZulu-Natal.

Dr Mehran Zarrebini, head of British investment group PFE International which owns Van Dyck Carpets, said that the new facility would be the new home of the Mathe Group, one of only two KwaZulu-Natal companies registered with tyre recycling regulatory body Redisa.

The REDISA Integrated Industry Waste Tyre Management Plan was gazetted in November 2012 as a means of dealing with the mounting number of waste tyres dumped in landfills and open areas. Each year, South Africa adds 11 million waste tyres to this unfortunate stockpile.

As tyres are designed to be robust and durable, they are notoriously difficult to recycle and take extremely long periods to biodegrade. The mounting number of waste tyres has become a health and environmental hazard. Tyres are often burnt for warmth or to remove scrap metal in disadvantaged communities, releasing noxious gases such as dioxins and carbon monoxide.

The Mathe Group currently recycles waste truck tyres in an 850 sq/m facility in New Germany. Its new factory, which is due to be commissioned in April this year, comprises a 2 500 sq/m factory and a 1 000 sq/m warehouse. It will be fitted out with R20 million worth of state-of-the-art equipment which is due to arrive in South Africa within the next three months.

At capacity, the Mathe Group’s New Germany facility processes six tons of radial truck tyres per day.

Each truck tyre weighs approximately 68 kg. Between 15 and 20 percent of the tyre is steel which is separated from the rubber and provides an additional revenue stream for the company. The steel is on sold to other recyclers and a large portion is exported to India.

According to Zarrebini, the Mathe Group processed approximately 28 000 truck tyres during 2014. Over the next five years, this number is expected to dramatically increase to approximately 150 000 tyres. These 150 000 tyres will produce approximately 8,670 tons of rubber crumb. 

“We are constrained by current capacity in New Germany and new capacity will come online in May/June 2015,” he said. At present, the existing factory can only receive a single truck of waste tyres at a time. They are transported from Redisa depots in Cape Town and Bloemfontein. The new factory and warehouse in Hammarsdale will accommodate multiple deliveries and stockpile tyres for recycling.  

New equipment will allow the Mathe Group to recycle both car and truck tyres.

The recycling procedure comprises sorting, a three phase crushing process and then the packaging of the resulting rubber crumb. Magnets remove the metal components and separators produce different sized particles for different applications. These include the manufacture of asphalt for roads and pavements, brake pads and insulation products.

Currently, between 70 and 80 percent of the Mathe Group’s rubber crumb output goes to the Van Dyck factory in Prospecton where it is used to manufacture acoustic underlays for laminated flooring.  The Mathe Group has also provided rubber crumb for use as a foundation for sports fields utilising artificial grass. Rubber crumb from the New Germany factory was used for four FIFA one star rated soccer fields in Cape Town last year and is currently being used to complete a major project in Southern Africa. 

The Mathe Group was set up in 2010 by Mr Vusumuzi Mathe, an entrepreneur who has worked extensively in the construction industry since 1985 serving both the public and private sector with key focus on the construction of roads, bridges and housing in Gauteng.

The company began manufacturing rubber crumb or granulate in late 2011 in limited quantities. In 2013, the Mathe Group obtained a licence from the Ethekwini Municipality to manufacture rubber crumb without restriction on quantities.

Zarrebini explained that the Mathe Group had begun supplying Van Dyck Carpets with rubber crumb in 2012 when that company was expanding and had begun manufacturing acoustic underlays. “There was synergy from the start since Van Dyck was trying to source rubber crumb locally instead of either importing it or buying it from the Western Cape and Gauteng.  From PFE International’s point of view, it made sense to secure the company’s supply chain, so we formed a joint venture with the Mathe Group in 2014.”

Significant investment in equipment at Van Dyck will increase output of acoustic underlays and hence consumption of rubber crumb. Van Dyck will also begin making acoustic cradles and sound barriers using rubber crumb later this year.

Zarrebini said that Van Dyck was working with a UK partner to investigate other applications. Currently, acoustic underlays are being exported to the United States, Australia, Qatar and South Korea.

Shirley Williams 

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