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Recycled Tire “Fluff” and “Crumb” Help the Environment

By Tara Weaver-Missick
April 12, 1999

What should be done with the more than 265 million tires discarded each year? Recycling would be the ideal solution, and Agricultural Research Service scientists have found a way to do it. They extract the pulverized rubber and polyester/nylon mixture from tires and divide it into two separate materials. The polyester/nylon fiber is called fluff, and the rubber material is called crumb.

Currently companies typically cut the tires into smaller pieces. The rubber and polyester/nylon fiber are then pulverized using either a freezing treatment and a hammer mill, or by grinding up the material. The companies recover over 50 percent of the rubber from this process, but the remainder is still sent to landfills. The rubber that is recovered is valued at about $500 per ton.

Agricultural Engineer W. Stanley Anthony, head of ARS’ Cotton Ginning Research Unit in Stoneville, Miss., developed the new, improved process based on cotton ginning technology. Anthony’s two patent-pending methods allow companies to also recover the fiber for a newly developing market. A company that places 12 tons per day in a landfill could potentially turn that into an additional $5,700 a day.

Products such as new tires, truck bed liners, running tracks, shoes, carpet backing, brake pads and shoes, asphalt, water hoses, and floor mats can be made from the recycled rubber. Several companies are considering licensing this technology.

ARS is USDA’s chief research agency.

Scientific contact: W. Stanley Anthony, ARS Cotton Ginning Research Unit, Stoneville, Miss., phone (601) 686-3094, fax (601) 686-5438,