Product testing facility construction to be completed this year

17th February 2017 By: Kimberley Smuts - Creamer Media Reporter

The construction of Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa’s (Redisa’s) Product Testing Institute (PTI), which started last year, is expected to be completed in the second quarter of this year.

The purpose of the institute will be the establishment of a facility capable of performing tyre testing to homologation standards, and to develop an environmental rating system for tyres.

The resulting environmental rating will allow for a differentiation in the waste management fee. Redisa notes that those tyres that are better rated will incur a lower waste management fee. The incentive of lower fees and eventual elimination of fees will encourage tyre manufacturers to produce products in a manner that is fully cradle-to-cradle certified, ultimately creating a zero-waste industry.

Redisa director Stacey Davidson explains that the process of getting a new facility accredited and operating to International Organisation for Standardisation standards typically takes nine months to a year. Full operation as a tyre homologation facility is planned for mid 2018.

She adds that the PTI is an important part of Redisa’s business model, as it helps to pro- mote a circular economy for the products that it will test. Products that obtain a better environmental rating from the PTI will attract a lower waste management fee under the manufacturers’ extended producer responsibility. Redisa notes that tyre manufacturers that qualify for lower fees improve their competitiveness.

This will incentivise original-equipment manufacturers to ultimately shift their product’s design to cradle-to-cradle manufacturing techniques that minimise the impact of those products on the environment in terms of life span, waste minimisation, recyclability and biodegradability.

The institute will also house an independent forensics and analytical scientific laboratory unit, capable of assessing the quality and environmental performance of new and imported tyres as well as being able to provide expertise in tyre failure analysis.
In addition to the commercial side of the business, the PTI will provide training in rubber science, technology and engineering at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels including on the processes required for rubber recycling.

Further, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) postgraduate research students will travel to the Coega Industrial Development Zone outside Port Elizabeth as and when they need to use facilities housed at the PTI.

NMMU undergraduate students, especially polymer technology diploma students, will also visit the PTI to conduct experiments and witness demonstrations. Some in-service trainee and internship students will perform training at the PTI. High school learners and the public will also be allowed to visit the PTI for educational purposes.

Davidson adds that, Redisa’s strategy for this year is to continue to meet the requirements as outlined in the Redisa Plan, particularly in line with supporting the development of small, medium-sized and micro enterprises, most notably recyclers, which will further drive development of the tyre recycling industry in South Africa. This development will be achieved predominantly through investment in infrastructure, business support and research into new applications for waste.

“Driving awareness around the value of circular economies and the opportunities created by the concept remains key to Redisa this year,” says Davidson.

She highlights that, it is important for South Africa to explore the notion of a circular economy, which is an exciting approach that will not only eliminate threats to environmental quality and resources, but will also posi- tively contribute to the growth and development of the economy. The PTI is an important enabler of circularity in the tyre industry.

Redisa asserts that waste tyres overall are approaching billion-rand industry status: Redisa alone is injecting some R400-million a year into the industry, and the waste tyre processors are adding a similar amount.

Davidson points out that there is a growing demand for more waste tyres that can be used for products derived from processed waste tyres. For example, crumb rubber is the result of processing automotive and truck scrap tyres in particular. During this process, the steel and tyre cord (fluff) is removed, leaving tyre rubber with a granular consistency. This rubber crumb is often used in astroturf as cushioning, where it is sometimes referred to as astro-dirt, asphalt for tarring the roads, floor mats, carpet padding, vehicle mudguards and adhesives.

She enthuses that there is no doubt that the industry is growing, owing to the stimulus provided by having the Redisa waste tyre management plan operating, and the economic value to the country is increasing as more processors come on stream that create higher value- add than, for example, using the tyres as fuel.