tyres stacked up in landfill

Background

Every year our planet uses more than 27 million tonnes of natural and synthetic rubber, making more than a billion tyres and more than 50,000 other rubber products that we use every day. Much rubber is simply burned after use and the rest scattered far and wide as a filler in other products. The scale of the waste is vast. However, as demand for rubber grows each year, we continue to plant more rubber trees and use more oil to make more rubber, wasting our planet’s valuable resources, causing deforestation and unnecessary damage around the world.

Edinburgh based Recircle, has created a breakthrough technology that allows rubber to be effectively recycled into high-quality applications. It’s a world first, which combines patented innovation, protection of our environment and economic viability. The Recircle technology relies on effective surface devulcanisation of rubber powders (the breaking of cross-linking sulphur bonds) derived from waste rubber.

 

Challenge

Recircle were looking to develop rapid testing techniques suitable for high throughput screening in industrial application for the vulcanised and devulcanised rubber powders in order to assess the effectiveness of the devulcanisation process. The company was seeking universities with appropriate facilities to do this, with the aim of conducting long-term research on the optimisation of a biotechnological devulcanization process.

This would be essential for improving the company’s quality control procedures, as well as for application testing with new waste feedstocks provided by customers.  The new standards would help the company provide higher levels of quality assurance to all customers, regardless of the materials being processed for them, and further cement its reputation as the provider of the highest quality materials in the market.

 

Solution

Louise Arnold from Interface successfully partnered Professor Nick Christofi, Chief Scientific Officer at Recircle, with Professor David Bucknall, Chair in Materials Chemistry at Heriot-Watt University. Together, they successfully applied to Innovate UK for KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) funding and were subsequently awarded £125k to fund a two-year project utilising the services of a post-graduate associate to develop rapid testing methods for the assessment of surface chemistry on polymer surfaces. 

 

Benefits

By providing the company with an innovative quality control process, the KTP will underpin the professionalisation and worldwide expansion of its current process capabilities; opening up a large opportunity for growth for the business in terms of materials they can process and global expansion of the customer base.

 

Impacts

This collaboration has directly resulted in an increase in turnover as well as additional employment within the company.

Head and shoulders photo of Prof Nick Christofi

Interface responded quickly to our company’s request for help in solving our problem. The link generated, through list supplied by Interface, has allowed Recircle to engage with recognised expertise at Heriot-Watt University enabling rapid progress in identifying the set of techniques required for the project and further association with other academic institutions and research establishments to facilitate analyses and data handling.

Nick Christofi, Chief Scientific Officer, Recircle Ltd

Follow-on Activity

An additional project to come out of the partnership was a consultancy with Zero Waste Scotland under a Circular Economy programme that aims to stimulate innovation amongst Scottish businesses to help them adopt more circular business practices, which treat all resources as assets – keeping them in use for as long as possible to extract the maximum value from them. Making available European Regional Development Funds, Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) is aiming to stimulate new business activity to identify, develop and bring to market new circular economy products and services.  Through Professor Bucknall, Recircle received consultancy funding to examine the recycling of waste water from the Recircle devulcanization process and to generate new products from its waste streams.

If you would like to find out more about partnering with a university or college, please contact us.