While scrap heaps containing millions of wasted tyres might not seem like a hazard to anyone, they actually can cause severe damage to the environment. Such was the case in 1999 when a lightning storm ignited tyres in a Californian tyre recycling facility. The “Westly Tyre Fire” created an enormous fire and brought to attention the dangers of rubber scrap heaps, and as such, efforts were placed to find a use for scrap tyres.
Today, many companies have focused on putting old rubber tyres to use, one of the most prominent being recycling them for road surfacing. whereby rubber is combined with pavement materials to create the roads we know today. While not all roads do this, a significant proportion does.
That being said, let’s talk more about surface trends of 2021 and beyond to see what we can expect from the use of surfaces and rubber:
Surface Trends Beyond 2021
Many roads today are made of what is known as asphalt concrete. This type of material is made up of rocky aggregates and a black binder that acts as the glue to keep the road together. It is in these binders that utilizes a blend of complex hydrocarbons from petroleum that has a significant impact on the environment despite how little it is used. This doesn’t include the process of acquiring, transporting, and refining the binder, all of which emit large amounts of greenhouse gases. Even during the paving process, more greenhouse gases are produced as the binders need to be heated with a mix of aggregate. Unfortunately, such a binder doesn’t last too long, either. Over time, the binder stiffens, leading to cracks.
With that in mind, how does one go about fixing the problem of an environmentally harmful binder that quickly oxidizes and causes the road to crack? This is where tyres come in.
Tyres are made out of synthetic and natural rubbers which are heated up with various auxiliary compounds to create a cross-linked structure. This composition is what makes the tyres so hardy, and that’s why they last so long in landfills. Fortunately, though, they do not have to stay there. Upon discovering ways to turn tyres into crumb rubber, the addition of such rubber into asphalt binders has improved the surface’s performance significantly. However, there is one drawback here. The drawback of mixing rubber with asphalt is that the temperatures needed to make the mixture viscous enough to work with, need to be much higher. Fortunately, warm mix technologies that utilize foam water have allowed such temperatures to drop by a whopping 40 Celcius, leading to less energy spent and, as a result, much less greenhouse gas produced. That said, further research is progressing to create cold mixtures, but they’re still used as patching material rather than all-out road solutions because their performance isn’t up there.
Apart from mixing crumb rubber with binders to improve the performance and environmental-friendliness of roads, many other experimental trends are being generated to take it much further. One idea is to use Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP), using old roads to build new ones. However, while many of these implementations are still in their infancy, it is good to see companies looking for new materials.
Seeing how manufacturers are working hard to find more environmentally-friendly solutions that do not sacrifice performance, one can assume that the world is only thanking us in our attempt to live greener. With that in mind, we believe that the future trends will revolve around being environmentally friendly, and these apply to roads and more. KEE Surfacing has been using both crumb rubber and RAP over many years and is proud to lead the way for WA’s roads to be built using more environmentally friendly materials. With KEE Asphalt, KEE Profiling, KEE Spray Seal and KEE Basecourse Paving divisions, KEE Surfacing has you covered!
KEE Group is Australia’s civil and mining support service, offering services covering hire, surfacing, transport, and fuel. If you are looking for a construction hire that offers surfacing services that you can rely on, contact us today!
IMAGE © Katharyn Quinn 2021