Israel’s EcoTech Recycling has developed a process that will make the world nicer, cleaner, and less wasteful. It’s an idea that will appeal to many people. And potentially, along the way, it will enable the company to enjoy steady growth and earn lucrative profits.
The process is called Active Rubber (AR), and it is made from the rubber in worn, ruined, and discarded tires. There are incredible numbers of them out there and their numbers keep growing. New and more efficient engines are being developed for cars and SUVs, but they still need four tires, and at some point those are no longer usable.
More than 1.6 billion tires are manufactured annually, and 290 million of them are discarded - and that’s from the US alone. These are usually piled in tire “graveyards” that keep growing higher each year. Discarded tires are the largest source of waste rubber in the world.
“Rubber is a valuable commodity, and we are making it reusable,” EcoTech CEO and President Gideon Drori told Israel 21c. “Active Rubber is a substitute for synthetic rubber that can be used to make new tires and automotive parts.”
The company also uses waste rubber to make ECOINSUL, a new insulation it developed for walls and flooring. According to Drori, ECOINSUL “outperforms the current standard 10-fold. There’s almost no difference in price and it’s easy to handle and apply.”
According to the company, AR is a new synthetic rubber that can be mixed with any type of polymer rubber to manufacture rubber products in a green and economic way. It can also be used in the replacement of new rubber.
EcoTech’s process has progressed far beyond the planning stage. The company has received 21 patents and finished preliminary testing more than a year ago. Since then, word has gotten out and lots of major customers have climbed aboard.
EcoTech has signed a “lucrative” contract with Austria-based Sibur International, one of the largest synthetic rubber manufacturers. Sibur may use the company’s technology to set up its own factories, and if it does, there will be plenty of work, as Europe is another large source of tire waste, generating more than 4.5 million tons every year.
In addition, EcoTech is in discussions with a large chemical manufacturer in Italy and has been approached by the UAE to set up factories there. Moreover, they’ve also been speaking with firms in Russia, China, and Australia.
And it hopes to set up another facility in an unspecified OECD country. (OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is an international organization with 38 member states whose aim is to “build better policies for better lives.”) The Petach Tikva-based company is raising capital to convert its R&D site in Akko into a factory to meet demand in Israel.
Most people who talk about pollution and recycling refer to water, air, and metal; rubber usually takes a back seat to these items. Nevertheless, it is a major waste of a resource that has to be disposed of - but that could be recycled.
According to National Geographic, 19% of the tires made these days are natural rubber, and another 24% synthetic rubber. In addition, lots of energy and oil is consumed in manufacturing them. For example, on average, 7 gallons of oil are used to make an auto tire, and 22 gallons to make a truck tire.
EcoTech’s tire recycling process obviously would conserve resources, reduce pollution, and hold down costs. It has another important advantage, too: It uses 95% less energy than is consumed by traditional rubber production processes.
“The rubber industry is critical when it comes to reducing environmental pollution,” says Drori. “AR is produced without hazardous oils, chemicals, or other resources. It’s such a clean process that for every ton of AR we produce, we get six tons of carbon credit.” (Investopedia defines a carbon credit as a permit that allows the company that holds it to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.)
The EU recently banned rubber powder with additives as well as crumb rubber, a substance made from shredded tires used to resurface playgrounds, because it contains suspected carcinogens. “We are one of the only solutions out there that is completely viable and ready,” Drori added
EcoTech has received important honors and recognition. The company won third prize in an innovation contest sponsored by BuiltUp Ventures and the Israeli Export Institute in Tel Aviv last November; it also placed in the Top 5 in a World Economic Forum competition.
According to Israel21c, EcoTech’s technology is based on an idea proposed by the father of mathematician Oleg Golobrodsky, the company’s chairman and founder. The senior Golobrodsky had been the head of a large ammunition factory in the Soviet Union but was sent to prison “for the crime of being Jewish and died there” said son Oleg. The senior Golobrodsky’s idea: a new way of recycling tires.
“Oleg and I set up a company in the Ukraine in 2011; subsequently I brought it to Israel, and started to work on the idea - a thermodynamic technology that freezes rubber without a lot of electricity and no liquid nitrogen, and turns it into micron-sized powder.”
Working with experts from Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology, the EcoTech team developed a chemical process that reactivates polymers, enabling them to connect to other polymers and form a new material.
“We can take any kind of used tire and turn it back into synthetic rubber. We are the only company in the world that has closed the loop on used tire recycling” without any waste, says Golobrodsky.
A growing number of companies in a growing number of countries have already signed on to EcoTech’s process or have expressed interest in it. Even if all of them build recycling facilities, those still won’t be enough to rid the world of the tire graveyards that have piled up over the years -- but they will be an important step in the right direction. And along the way, many people around the world will be doing important work and earning profits. This is just one more example of Israeli know-how improving the world.
Sources: ecotrc.com; investopedia.com; israel21c.org; oecd.org