Development of a closer rubber recycling process for components of automotive sector

Participants: Rubber Conversion, University of Trento, Fondazione Caritro

The environmental & economic need to increase recycling rates is one of the principal driving forces behind the technological innovation. In 2017, Natural rubber became an integral part of the Critical Raw Materials at European level and despite that, not so much has been done in terms of enhancing the waste at the end of life. The RE-RUBBER project aims to produce automotive components using recycled rubber deriving from processing waste from the same sector, in a closed recycling perspective.

The project will focus on a chemical-mechanical technology of devulcanization, effective and sustainable from an environmental point of view, allowing a high reuse rate (20-30%) of production waste in the development of extruded rubber profiles for the automotive sector. This way, we will achieve not only a virgin material savings, but also a significant reduction in rubber waste and CO2 emissions.

Rubber Conversion Srl has already successfully provided the devulcanization service a closed cycle to customers in non-automotive sectors, and the proposed project aims to extend this innovation also in the automotive sector.

University of Trento’s support will come in form of 3 main scientific disciplines that will be involved in the project:

  • Science and Technology of Polymeric Materials
  • Science and Technology of Composite Materials
  • Nanotechnologies

This way it will be possible to achieve two objectives for the automotive rubber producers:

1) Introduce innovative sustainable components to the market, improving not only sustainability but also safety and comfort, according to the new EU requirements on recycling.

2) Mitigate environmental damage and costs deriving from the management of production waste.

Thanks to the devulcanization technology it will be possible to obtain rubber that can be reprocessed from manufacturing waste. The formulation of the final mixture will be engineered using microstructured (carbon black, silica) and nanostructured (nanosilica, expanded graphite) additives, to achieve comparable / better characteristics than those of the virgin material.

Rubber Conversion will also be responsible for the production of the components, and the technical data sheets, the safety data sheets and the qualification procedures will be developed to be able to market the new products after the project. Life cycle analysis (LCA) will certify the reduction of CO2 emissions of the new components produced. The non-monetary aims of the project are represented by the dissemination, communication and technology transfer activities that will be implemented.

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