3 million tons end-of-life tires (ELT) are collected every year across the EU countries. But the way they are processed is far from optimal. Although most of ELT are recycled, one third are still incinerated for energy purposes. These ELT are treated as waste instead of the valuable resource they are.
The consequences of not recycling ELT, is continued dependence on non-renewable resources such as oil and extensive CO2 emission to manufacture rubber-based product such as tires and conveyor belts. This creates not only climate and environmental challenges, but it is also a poor economic model, as valuable materials found in ELT tires are lost.
Many have been in search for economically viable alternatives to the incineration of ELT and Elysium Nordic will change this situation from 2022 by using a thermal decomposition based on a patented microwave technology to recover from ELT materials such a gas, steel, oil and especially carbon black, which is a material that is irreplaceable in the production of tires and other rubber-based products.
The first plant will be built in the port of Nyborg in Denmark with capacity to recover up to 12,000 tons of carbon black from 30,000 tons of ELT. The plant is the first important step towards a more circular, sustainable and reasonable approach to handling ELT.
Instead of producing new carbon black from oil, we can recover the carbon black from end-of-life tires (ELT). Carbon black is recovered through innovative thermal decomposition by microwave technology from Canadian Environmental Waste International (EWI), where the ELT are heated in an oxygen-free environment and thereby separated into oil, gas, steel and carbon black.
The plant will be able to use the recovered gas in the process itself, reducing the need for external sources of energy, as well as to deliver surplus heat to the district heating network. The oil, which partly comes from natural rubber, will be supplied as a bio-oil, and the steel and carbon black will be supplied for recycling in new products.
The recovered Carbon Black (rCB), will consist of the same grades already present in the ELT. The quality of the rCB will be comparable to newly produced carbon black and can therefore be used as a full replacement in several applications.
Carbon black is a fine black powder made of carbon. It is used primarily as a reinforcing material in rubber and tire products, but also as a key ingredient in the production of ink, different kinds of plastic, paintings and coatings.
Carbon black is produced from fossil fuels, mainly oil, by incomplete combustion in a controlled environment. The methods by which carbon black is produced depends on the grade and application needed.
Between 1,5 and 2 litres of oil is used to produce 1 kilogram of carbon black, which stresses the importance of recovering the carbon black that is available in our waste.
There is a strong demand for carbon black in the EU countries, and the demand is expected to continuously increase over the next years.
In 2018, total demand of carbon black in the EU countries was close to 2 million tons of which 45% was imported, mainly from
Russia and Ukraine.
The high share of new carbon black imports is related to the strict environmental and safety regulations in the EU, which make production of new carbon black in the EU more expensive than in countries with less restrictive regulations.
Left: Demand of carbon black per industry in Western Europe.
Right: Share of import and production of carbon black in the EU.
Most of the big tire producers have defined strategies and set targets for their use of sustainable and recycled materials in future products. Recovered carbon black helps producers achieve these targets, as up to 30% of a new tire consists of carbon black.
Recovered carbon black has an economical advantage, compared to the newly produced product. The production price is not related
to the fluctuating oil prices as the carbon black is recovered from ELT and not produced from oil. ELT is an abundant resource which ensures competitive production costs.
Elysium Nordic will comply with all applicable environmental and safety requirement regulations and still able to construct and operate a cost-efficient operation.
The 12,000 tons of rCB produced every year on the first plant from Elysium Nordic, represent less than 1% of the carbon black imported to European industries.
1 million tons of ELT per year are currently incinerated in the EU. To recover 12,000 tons rCB, Elysium Nordic will consume 3% of these.
Import of carbon black could be reduced by one third if all 1 million tons of ELT currently incinerated were recycled into rCB.
Recycling of all 3 million tons ELT collected every year in EU would eliminate import of carbon black, representing approximately 100 plants similar to the Nyborg capacity.
The numbers illustrate the significant potential to expand Elysium Nordic operations in the future. New plants will reduce import, create new business and jobs, contributing to the European economy and help the European tire and rubber producers to achieve their sustainability targets.