Can old tires be fully recyclable?

Could old, worn-out tires be recycled into useful products? That claim is being made by Green Distillation Technologies, a company in Australia. The company has developed a significant advance for recycling the part of a motor vehicle that is regularly thrown away after it is worn out.

Some tires are already partly recycled, used as a material for carpeting or burned as fuel. However, most tires, and especially the rubber parts, wind up in landfills, about a billion per year. Some of these tire landfills can be seen from space. Clearly, something has to be done.

GDT claims that it has a process that will break a tire down to its component materials without generating emissions. It can sell steel to auto manufacturers and carbon to any company that uses that element in its industrial processes. However, the company had managed to extract diesel fuel from old tires.

The exact process is a closely guarded secret, but it involves feeding tires into a vacuum chamber and applying heat. The process breaks the tire down into steel, carbon, and diesel fuel. The company estimates that a typical car tire yields four liters of fuel, four kilograms of carbon and two kilograms of steel. A larger truck tire will yield 27 liters of fuel, 28 kilograms of carbon and 15 kilograms of steel. A big dump truck-sized tire yields 1,500 liters of fuel, 1.6 metric tons of carbon, and .8 metric tons of steel.

The fuel can be fed into diesel engines, or it can be refined to become aviation fuel or gasoline.