Continental A.G. has developed a process to separate steel cord and uncured rubber compound, allowing the tire maker to reclaim the compound and thus make manufacturing more sustainable.
The recycling process, which Conti said is carried by a "hurricane machine, was developed by Martin Theusner, a Continental veteran and former head of environmental protection at the commercial vehicle tires business unit.
"Every year, we have to deal with significant amounts of rubberized steel cord scrap in our plants around the world," Theusner said. "Instead of declaring them as waste for use outside the plants, we were looking for a sustainable solution that preserves the valuable raw materials."
Since the material in question is uncured, separation the rubber from the steel cord is achieved by applying mechanical force, Conti said. Once the rubber has been granulated, a series of high-powered magnets remove any remaining pieces of steel from the compound.
The steel is sold to be recycled outside the company, and Conti can reuse the rubber compound for tire production.
The prototype machine is located at Conti's plant in Puchov, Slovak Republic, where it is being used to process uncured rubber scrap from most of Continental's European manufacturing sites. Conti said it cooperated with an unnamed specialized manufacturer of recycling equipment in developing the hurricane machine.
Conti said this is a world's first in the tire industry.
"This solution allows us to further improve our materials handling in terms of raw material usage and contributes to making our production processes increasingly 'eco-friendly,'" said Thierry Wipff, head of manufacturing Commercial Vehicle Tires.