Posts Tagged ‘pollution’

Old Tires Get a Second Chance With Green Rubber

Editor’s note: We’re excited about our new partnership with Green Rubber, a company that has developed a method for “devulcanizing” waste tires so that the rubber can be made into new products.  Starting this fall, we’ll be using Green Rubber’s recycled material in the soles of some of our footwear. 

Did you know about 1.3 billion vehicle tires are manufactured every year?

We are so busy thinking about emission and fuel efficiency standards for cars, it is hardly surprising that we pay little attention to what keeps them stuck to the road.  And while rubber does grow on trees, most tire rubber is synthetic and made from oil. In fact a typical car tire contains at least a couple of gallons of oil.

So it makes perfect sense to find new ways of using tires once they are worn out.

Globally, about 1 billion tires are thrown away every year.

There are about 7 billion sitting in landfills. 

Tire mountains are perfect breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects and pollute the water table. They take decades to degrade and can burn for years if they catch fire. At the moment, some old tires can be reused in environmentally-conscious ways –for example, shredded and used as filler in playground and gym floors — but the fact of the matter is that most waste tires end up as a fuel in cement kilns and power plants.

The difficulty in reusing waste tires is that they are made from vulcanised rubber. Vulcanisation is a process that gives rubber the strength and durability that makes it suitable for applications such as tires. Basically it involves adding sulphur and other chemicals to raw rubber and then heating it up.

The problem is that that vulcanisation has long been a one-way process. Once vulcanised, rubber can’t be re-shaped and reused for any other purpose. 

Until now.

At Green Rubber Inc., we have come up with a new way of using scrap tires. We have a patented, environmentally-conscious way of reversing the vulcanisation process so that old tire waste can be reused and made into new products.  We take scrap tire waste, add our patented chemical formula called DeLink and after a short time in a milling process, the end material is devulcanised and ready for reuse.  The process uses environmentally-conscious chemicals and low levels of electricity.

Buying products containing Green Rubber™ means that all that carbon locked up in tires isn’t released into the atmosphere when a tire comes to the end of its working life – a preferable solution to an acute environmental problem.

Andrew Murray-Watson is the Vice President of Communications for Green Rubber.

Virginia Kills Plastic Bag Ban

Earthkeepers, sound off: what do you believe to be the best solution to the plastic bag problem?

a) instituting a ban
b) taxing people to use them
c) passing a recycling law

From yesterday’s Environmental Leader:

A ban on disposable plastic bags in Virginia has been pulled at the request of plastics industry representatives, reports DailyPress.com

The proposed bag ban came after Virginia legislators saw the success of such programs in Ireland and other countries. Support for a ban also originated with Virginia’s cotton farmers who find the bags blowing into their fields and clogging bales of cotton.

But the Virginia Plastic Bag Coalition, which includes industry representatives who have lobbied nationally against plastic bag bans, said they favored a recycling program instead. A similar measure requiring stores to charge customers 5 cents a bag was also withdrawn.

Over 100 plastic-bag bans or taxes were brought up by cities and states in 2008, but many failed. Like Virginia, New York state last year passed a plastic-bag recycling law instead of an outright ban.

Barren and Carcass Islands, The Falklands

Jon Bowermaster is a writer, filmmaker, adventurer and fellow Earthkeeper who has spent the last 20 years exploring remote corners of the globe and documenting his experiences for a variety of national and international magazines, as well as in his own books and documentary films.  We feature periodic updates and observations from Jon here on the Earthkeeper blog … and you may follow his travels anytime on his own blog, Dispatches.

As I’ve figured out during the past ten days, when it comes to islands few can compete with South Georgia for its fantastic wildlife, landscape and sense of mystery. So when Barren Island – one of the Falklands 740 smallish isles – appeared out of the fog this morning it both lived up to its name and reminded me we were no longer in magic land.

Flat and not surprisingly devoid of any foliage taller than my boots, Barren Island is nonetheless distinct for its burrowing penguins, a solitary snipe, a beach covered with bleached-out whale bones and something I hadn’t seen for awhile: Beach trash.

That there was a smattering of plastic and detritus washed (tossed?) off commercial fishing boats on the far side of Banner is not the fault of the island, or of the Falklands. Most of what I saw on this beach, as I’ve seen on virtually every coastline I’ve visited during the past decade, comes from boats of all kinds, many of which still treat the ocean like a limitless dump.

A sheep farmer named Mike, who happens by in his Zodiac just as I land ashore, leases Banner Island. I ask about prevailing currents and where the washed-up stuff most likely comes from. “Boats,” is his simple answer. Mainland Argentina is several hundred miles away.

Photo copyright Fiona Stewart

Along with its brother island George, which I can make out in the near distance, Barren are the southernmost working farms in the Falklands. They are successful at sheep and cows and re-growing tussock grasses in part because they are rat-free, a problem impacting many of the near islands. Seals, giant petrels and gentoo and Magellanic penguins share the beaches happily, but the islands are best known for the amazing bird life … everywhere.

We spend the morning walking the length of Banner and then sail to the somewhat unfortunately named Carcass Island (named after a sailing ship, not a cadaver). Just a trio of families has lived on Carcass over the past century and the island itself is well looked after and boasts another thing I haven’t seen for many weeks: A bed and breakfast.

But the plastic and trash on the beach here is even worse than on Banner; in fact, it may be among the worst example of man’s mistreatment of the ocean I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying a lot, since I’ve spent the past decade studying beaches and coastlines around the globe. During the last ten years we identified a trio of environmental issues impacting everyone who lives on or near a beach: Climate change, over fishing and plastic pollution. Sadly, Carcass Island could become the poster boy for the latter. A few of its beaches are so thick in man’s plastic waste that its rocks and sand and shoreline disappear beneath my feet.

- Jon Bowermaster