The Mathe Group, one of South Africa’s largest used radial truck tyre recycling operations, has invested in a new multimillion-rand operation to recycle waste rubber from the retreading process.
One of the Mathe Group’s biggest investors is British investment group PFE International. Its CEO, Dr Mehran Zarrebini, says South Africa is one of the largest tyre recyclers in the world, as most goods travel by road in the country, rather than rail.
He believes local retreaders process as many tyres per day as some of the largest operations in the US.
An estimated 1.1-million new truck tyres are sold in South Africa each year.
At the end of its useful life, 80% of a tyre can still be used provided the casing is not damaged.
Because local transporters rely on retreaded tyres to reduce their running cost per kilometre, most of these tyres are retreaded up to three times.
Added to this, a further 200 000 reusable casings are imported for retreading each year.
Zarrebini likens the tyre retreading process to grating cheese.
After inspection, the remaining rubber on a tyre casing is grated away in preparation for the addition of a new rubber tread.
“The initial grate is course but, the closer to the tread base you get, the finer the resulting grate becomes. The grated rubber is known as buffing and it is this buffing that is either resold to recyclers or disposed of in landfills.”
Each retreaded tyre generates between seven and ten kilograms of buffing, which makes it a significant source of raw material for Mathe Group’s ever hungry Hammarsdale recycling plant.
During 2018, the operation doubled production and the factory currently recycles about 150 000 used radial truck tyres a year.
It currently operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has been under ongoing pressure to increase output.
“Our primary focus is on sustainability and developing products manufactured from recycled materials,” says Zarrebini. “This latest investment is in line with that and also provides us with an opportunity to diversify further and create additional revenue streams.”
The rubber crumb currently produced at the plant – from used radial truck tyres – is used by the Van Dyck Floors factory, in Durban, for the manufacture of rubber flooring, paving, interlocking rubber mats and acoustic underlays for carpets that are exported to 50 countries across the world.
Mathe Group also has a wide customer base that buys rubber crumb for use as an infill for sports fields using artificial grass, for inclusion in modified bitumen for road resurfacing, and the manufacture of non-slip paint and ballistics equipment.
The new plant, which was sourced in China and delivered in June, will be commissioned in July.
It is expected to double output and create at least ten new jobs.
“Ours will be the first facility to process both whole tyres and retread for various industries, including Van Dyck Carpets’ factory,” says Zarrebini.