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Understanding Rubber Recycling

SpecialChem / Oct 13, 2004

Worldwide consumption of rubber is roughly 18-20 million tonnes of very diversified goods. Among them, tyres are the most known and the end-of-life tyres are highly visible. Moreover they are a fire risk with highly polluting smokes. Recycling is difficult for several reasons: Each year, more than 18 million tonnes of natural and synthetic rubbers are consumed to manufacture goods as diversified as medical gloves, tyres, condoms, bridge bearingsā€¦ The lifetimes are in a range of few minutes for medical gloves to more than 1 century for bridge bearings and, generally, apart tyres, the rubber goods are spread and difficult to collect. * Rubbers are crosslinked, which creates an irreversible 3D-network and prevents re-processingā€¦ * The strength of network links is in the same order as the intramolecular ones and devulcanization leads to shorter molecules with poorer properties. * The rubbers are often intimately commingled with incompatible materials and separation is difficult. * Generally, rubbers are not biodegradable and, for example, tyres are not significantly degraded after several decades in landfills.

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