The two companies, CSIRO and VR TEK, have developed a technology that can devulcanize a tire and reclaim rubber. In the past, the bonds between rubber polymers have been strong enough to make tires difficult to melt.
One way to get around this is by shredding tires, but this requires special machinery to remove metal. Tires have metal in the rim and in lead weights to keep wheels aligned. One common reason tire recycling is considered uneconomical is the threat of metal contamination.
The new technology will separate the tire into sections based on material composition, as opposed to shredding.
CSIRO believes it will result in a 50 percent increase in tire recycling, which would be significant considering that an estimated one billion tires are disposed of annually, creating both environmental and health concerns when landfilled.
The companies have yet to release information on the other two steps in the recycling process but anticipate that Australia will eventually ban tires from landfills. Both government money and the Advanced Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre are funding the project.