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Rubber Recycling: The Core of Tyre Sustainability

Devon-based Bandvulc began operating 50 years ago, primarily recycling rubber for its local community.

Now Bandvulc is the UK’s leading commercial tyre retreader and part of Continental, yet despite significant expansion in capabilities and product offerings over the years, the company remains true to its founding principles and commitment to the environment, putting in place a myriad of efficient manufacturing processes to make sure the retread tyres produced are as sustainable as possible.

Here, Tony Mailling, Bandvulc Operations Director focuses on rubber recycling at the Ivybridge plant and the important role it plays in contributing to a more sustainable UK road transport industry.

What happens to used tyres at Bandvulc?

Rubber recycling at Bandvulc starts with the worn tyres, or casings, which arrive with us from customers all over the country. These casing are extensively inspected before we decide if retreading will be an option.

Understanding the exact quality of the casing is really important to ensure product integrity. The Bandvulc facility is able to inspect up to 2,500 casings per day, each subject to over 20 quality assurance checks including both visual assessment and mechanical checks.

If a casing is of satisfactory quality, it is selected for retread. Some 30% of the tyres received at Bandvulc are not suitable for retreading, so these are baled and collected for recycling.

Casings which are fit for retreading are placed into a buffing machine to remove any remaining rubber. This process alone can generate around 7kg of buffing crumb per tyre.

Bandvulc also recycle this, bagging up the crumb for collection by approved suppliers for use in other rubber products for example playground matting, carpet underlay or equestrian training arenas with some crumb also used in the manufacture of new tyres.

This means all rubber which comes into the Devon site is recycled in one way or another, we do not send any waste to landfill.

What about the rubber you need for the new retread tyres?

Reclaimed rubber crumb from buffing is also used to manufacture our unique tyre compounds.  Bandvulc are the only retreader in the UK with our own in-house rubber mixing and development capabilities – Bandvulc Mixing. This on-site lab means we can develop and test tyres on-site, and now thanks to our relationship with Continental, we have a two-way technology sharing model with Continental’s Research and Development engineers in Stöcken, Germany, allowing us to create tyres to meet the hefty demands of a broad range of commercial vehicle applications.

Every Bandvulc tyre produced saves 80% of the materials required to manufacture a new tyre, therefore significantly reducing the impact on the environment. This means we are able to save 30kg of rubber compound, up to 20kg of steel and 60kg of CO2 on every retread tyre produced compared to a new tyre.

In addition, retreading tyres reduces scrapping, exportation, and incineration of worn-out tyres which, over the course of a year, can release over 160,000 tonnes of CO2 into the air.

 How has Bandvulc considered its manufacturing processes as part of the sustainability equation?

Every part of our production has been considered with sustainability in mind and our customers understand and appreciate this.  We use innovative and highly efficient solutions in our retreading plant which combines the retreading of truck tyres and recycling of used rubber under one roof.

The advanced energy monitoring system at the Ivybridge facility keeps close track of the energy levels and output of every piece of equipment across the whole factory, ensuring environmental sustainability and efficiency at every stage of the process.

The factory has also introduced a zero-to-landfill policy, which ensures that no production waste goes to landfill. As a result, 100% of the factory’s waste is recycled or incinerated.

Bandvulc consider sustainability at the heart of our operations – across the board.  This not only includes the manufacturing processes in place on site, and our zero-to- landfill policy but also through our diverse product offering and the quality retreads we provide for customers who understand that considering how a tyre will be managed throughout its lifecycle can make a huge difference to operating costs and environmental impact.