As the climate debate rages some involved are suggesting instead of imposing carbon caps law makers should encourage scientific investment to reduce carbon emissions. And while agencies would no doubt claim they are doing that, a recent development in the steel industry underlines the potential. According to this article hundreds of thousands of Australia’s used car tires could be recycled every year and turned into steel, thanks to a discovery that rubber can be partially substituted for coke in electric arc furnaces. The process known as polymer injection technology results in the use of fewer natural resources and less electrical energy, and reduces emissions of nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide not to mention reducing the cost of steel making.
In the US, Nucor and Steel Dynamics are already major recyclers of steel scrap reducing the country’s need for mined iron ore and the energy required to turn that into liquid steel. But this development pioneered in Australia at the University of New South Wales and trialled at OneSteel’s Sydney and Melbourne electric arc furnaces has proved to achieve all of the above and justified OneSteel’s investment in converting both plants to handle the polymer injection technology required. At OneSteel’s Sydney Steel Mill, which like some of the Nucor plants in the US, produces steel billets using mainly scrap steel, trials showed the mill has potential to recycle more than 100,000 passenger car tires a year. At its Laverton facility, near Melbourne, the mill has already converted to the polymer injection process and has the potential to recycle more than 200,000 tires a year.
Uses have been developed for tires that have reached the end of their survivable life, including road and running track construction, sound absorption materials and so on but still millions of tires a year head for landfills. What a better use they would make helping our steel makers to be a little more efficient and reducing their carbon footprint. Who knows they may even earn some credits back under cap and trade!