Rubber stamp: turning food waste into tyres

Prototype of rubber produced using food waste-sourced filler Prototype of rubber produced using food waste-sourced filler Kenneth Chamberlain/Ohio State University
31 Mar
2017
Newly-developed ‘sustainable rubber’, produced using recycled food waste, could one day be used to make car tyres

Global demand for rubber is soaring, led primarily by the growth in tyre consumption as the developing world increasingly takes to the road. However, since up to 30 per cent of automobile tyres consist of ‘carbon black’ – a petroleum-based reinforcing filler – the knock-on effects of this boom come with environmental consequences.

Furthermore, the worldwide supply of carbon black is proving relatively unsustainable. Katrina Cornish, an Ohio Research Scholar and Endowed Chair in Biomaterials at Ohio State University, explains:

‘At the moment there’s no global surplus of carbon black, and the demand is going up every year in parallel with the demand for rubber, which is why we’re going to have a shortfall in the near future, which is going to be pretty devastating if we don’t have any alternatives in place.’

coloursDried and ground tomato skins (top) and eggshells (bottom) are shown after coarse, medium, and fine processing before being added to rubber (Image: Kenneth Chamberlain/Ohio State University)

Could so-called ‘sustainable rubber’ produced using industrial food waste be a solution? Cornish and fellow researchers at Ohio State have developed the technology by taking advantage of the vast quantities of tomato peel and eggshells which are otherwise thrown away each year in the production of various canned or otherwise processed food products. In America alone, up to 50 billion eggs are cracked in commercial food operations annually, while the majority of the 13 million tonnes of tomatoes eaten in the country each year are peeled and discarded in similar circumstances.

The processed rubber has proven to be just as tough and reliable as brand new rubber, and scaling up usage of this alternative to the existing carbon black filler could one day have a significant impact on meeting the global demand for tyres. Says Cornish:

‘I do think that there’s the potential here for a real win-win situation. Everybody can make money. It’s environmentally-friendly. Tomato peel is also light-weight, so you could actually reduce [tyre] weight, which is a good thing as well. We may find that we can pursue many applications that were not possible before with natural rubber.’

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...

MORE DOSSIERS

SIGMA ON TWITTER

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Oceans

An investigation into shark fins and ray gills sold in…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Wildlife

The rapid spread of Asian hornets is likely to make…

Energy

Europe provides more than €112billion (£97billion) in subsidies to fossil…

Oceans

A study of various fish populations has found dramatic reductions…

Geophoto

The seasonal changes of September promise much photographic potential for…

Oceans

Shipping traffic can increase lightning strikes, according to a pioneering…

Polar

New documentary travels to remote Antarctica to unpack the complex…

Oceans

The deaths of these majestic creatures had remained an unsolved…

Wildlife

Over a two-year period, a new species of plant or…

Wildlife

As part of New Zealand’s plan to cull millions of…

Oceans

A project to map the ocean floor is raising concerns…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Wildlife

Dismay as a Spanish baby dolphin becomes the latest victim…

Polar

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Oceans

The effect of plastics on the world’s oceans is posing…

Geophoto

Camera technology may have come a long way since the…

Energy

The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn…

Wildlife

Despite their high profiles, most of the world’s national animal…

Oceans

Asian countries are pledging to reduce the amount of land-based…