The upcoming Tirexpo Africa show (April 10-12 in Johannesburg, South Africa) will play host to over 3,000 stakeholders within the tire ecosystem in Africa and the surrounding regions. Policy makers, tire manufacturers, OEMs, distributors, dealers and retailers can look forward to discuss opportunities, exchange knowledge, and discover new solutions on tire-related matters, including tire recycling.
John Stone, Modern Tire Dealer's European Notebook columnist, reports that over the past years, the tire market in Africa has seen growth in demand and consumption, especially in the passenger car tire segment. On its own, replacement tires have been accounted for the majority share in Africa tire market and this trend is anticipated to continue over the next couple of years; which leads to an overall projection of the Africa tire market to surpass $8 billion by 2022.
Tire manufacturing industry and its waste production in South Africa
Stone says an article in 2014 noted that the local tire manufacturers alone had helped contribute close to $20 billion to the South Africa economy annually. These businesses provide an estimate of 6,500 direct jobs for the locals and contribute to approximately 32,000 indirect jobs related to tire production in agriculture, mining and other industries.
To meet the huge market demand for tires in South Africa, the increase in supply through local tire production and imports raises apprehensions about the various issues waste tires create, Stone says.. According to World Bank, South Africa is the 15th largest waste generating country in the world. Where public health and environmental issues are notable concerns of policy makers and public, tire manufacturers and importers faced challenges in managing their costs of disposing waste tires and reducing incurrence of the environmental levy for importing and disposing tires.
With the recent liquidation of Recycling and Economic Development in South Africa (REDISA), tire recycling has become one of the hottest topics within the region and the tire recycling industry at international level. It leads us to the larger question which many would have raised, “Is tire recycling a viable business to explore? Can it be profitable?”
Stone notes REDISA was established to mitigate the detrimental impact of waste tires on public health, environment, and economic development of lands, while involving local communities through job creation. It had set to achieve an ambitious goal of recycling 100% of the waste tires (246,631 tons) produced in Africa in 2011, by the end of 2017. As of February 2016, it had helped the creation of 226 small businesses and 3,112 jobs. 12,728 tons of waste tires were processed, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs. The results were remarkable, but far from achieving the nation’s objective of recycling 100% of its 38 waste streams by 2022. The blueprint which REDISA was built on is no longer valid, with businesses opposing the move in view of cost factor and, in turn, leading to jobs cut.
While there are apprehensions about the impact REDISA’s liquidation has on the tire industry, others are actively exploring various opportunities to recycle waste tires for profits. Here are some examples of South African businesses which had successfully turn waste into worth over a span of few years.
Tire recycling and repurposing for entrepreneurs and small business owners
Entrepreneurs and small business owners could potentially model after SoleRebel’s success in creating a home-grown footwear label. SoleRebel’s business model not only gives locally-sourced and recycled tire materials a new lease of life, it also creates jobs and skills-upgrading opportunities for the local communities with little reliant on advanced technology and huge capital. Aside from footwear, businesses can look into the following applications focusing on consumers:
* Fashion accessories
* Rugs and mats
* Garage gym equipment
Tire recycling and repurposing for larger enterprises
For larger enterprises that are able to leverage on economy of scale, they could exploit the use of advanced technology along with strategic partnerships with international players, Stone notes. Mathe Group is a leading example which projected its return-on-investment within two years of operation. Larger enterprises can explore options of providing recycled materials for both consumer and commercial markets:
* Rubber crump for playground products, railway crossing panels
* Rubber powder for protective and architectural coatings applications
* Non-rubber material extraction such as steel
* Devulcanization and Pyrolysis for fuel gas, oils, solid residue (char), and low-grade carbon black
* Cement manufacturing
As South Africa continues to progress, its tire recycling industry will increasingly play an important role in boosting her economic potential. Tire recycling businesses need to actively engage with the policy makers and local communities to ensure their own survival and growth in the ever-changing competitive landscape.
About the author
John Stone is a veteran in the tire industry. Stone writes the European Notebook column in MTD each month, covering all things tire and automotive-related in Europe, South Africa and Asia.