- Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) recently announced a process that uses recycled tire fibers to create stronger concrete.
- The findings, published in the journal Materials and Structures, indicate that including 0.35% tire fibers is the best ratio. According to the UBC team, up to 3 billion tires are produced worldwide every year and when recycled, they each leave behind one kilogram of scrap fiber.
- Their tests have found that including this fiber in concrete can reduce crack formation by more than 90% compared to standard concrete. This material has been used to resurface the steps outside a campus building and its performance is being tracked by embedded sensors.
The UBC team noted that multiple countries already use "crumb" rubber in their road projects, but they characterized this as a more advanced idea. By finding a beneficial use for the polymer fibers they can further help the tire industry reduce waste while also helping the concrete industry reduce its large carbon footprint and create a higher performing product.
Though reports have shown that the overall amount of scrap tires has decreased significantly in recent decades they still remain a challenge for some states. When not properly managed these tires can harbor insects and create other environmental hazards. To help address this issue, states such as California have awarded grants for innovative structural uses of tires in the past.
Recycling materials into construction aggregate is a longstanding and increasingly popular concept amid the rise in circular economy interest. Recent advances have found new structural uses for combustion ash, glass, carpeting and a range of other materials. One Dutch company is even working on replaceable roads made from plastic. Finding new ways to take these ideas beyond research journals and make them part of local end markets could help benefit multiple industries at once.