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Friday, 05 June 2020

Sustainability: The goal seems to be in sight, but out of reach…

Thursday, 26 June 2014 | Posted by: Tony Mash, TMA Consulting Inc.

I once heard tell of a man who approached a railway employee asking the way to somewhere far away and being told that it was best not to start from here in the first place. Sometimes I sense that the coatings industry is in the same position when it comes to addressing sustainability. It knows where it wants to go but can’t see how to get there. Occasionally there is a glimpse of something new that will help identify the best route to take, and there were several such moments at the recent American Coatings SHOW in Atlanta.

Sun Chemical took the opportunity at the ACS conference to announce that it had developed new process technology that converts post-consumer tyres into a "new, pigmentary material that offers the formulator a colorant with both high performance and environmental benefits.

The tyre industry has been looking for uses for post-consumer tyres for many years and currently the key outlets are fuel, ground rubber and civil engineering applications. When tyres are pyrolysed to extract their fuel value, a char remains which can be sold as a carbon black. However, the quality of the resultant product is not acceptable as a colorant for the Coatings Industry.

The new technology that produces this elastomeric material may very well represent a valuable example of a regenerative economic cycle for tyre rubber for which the Coatings Industry and its customers are the prime beneficiaries in terms of sustainability. This technology is a novel, non-cryogenic process that is proprietary to Sun Chemical. It was developed specifically for the purpose of using tyres in thin film coatings, and also has potential as a colourant and in spray applications. As with many such developments, this technology does not produce direct drop-in replacements for other materials but has some interesting benefits.

What could be seen is simply carbon black made from recycled rubber is much more than that. Its property balance, to quote Sun Chemical, is ’unique’; another example of the serendipitous nature of R&D in the world of renewable and recycled materials. You never know what is round the next corner, and as with recent developments in bio-sourced surfactants and resins, we are not only seeing reduced variable costs of production and lower carbon footprints by using recycled materials, but there is also the potential for improved properties which can be of significant value downstream. 

All really exciting!! I wonder where the next train coming into the railway station is heading?

Tony Mash

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