Recycling: an (im)material value

From playgrounds to artificial turf, traffic islands and porous asphalt: the value of discarded tyres

Home life Recycling: an (im)material value
Recycling: an (im)material value

Remember the thrill you felt when your parents transformed a tyre into a swing? The means of transport became a game that gave us the elation of flight, an uncomfortable seat, and the achievement of having an important part of the car all for yourself.

These feelings leave their mark, as do the campaigns for using discarded old tyres that would be transformed into "draining asphalt", pavement for children's playgrounds, artificial turf for athletic tracks and fields, traffic islands, and centers for physical rehabilitation, for example. The rubber powder from these tyres are even completely recycled so that they can be bonded again with new raw materials through a second vulcanization process.  

The ability to eliminate the idea of waste and replace it with the concept of resource, through recycling and repurposing processes is the next horizon of the circular economy indicated by the European Union. It is a sustainable way to "bring the circle to a close", and even Pirelli is a protagonist as one of the founding members of Ecopneus, a non-profit company for the tracking, collection, treatment, and final destination of discarded tyres. Concretely, Ecopneus manages a large part of the over 380,000 tons of tyres that are discarded each year in Italy, emptying sites occupied by mountains of discarded tyres and promoting recovery at no cost for the community. As a matter of fact, it also promotes social projects that use recycled rubber for the local territory, such as the sports center built in Emilia Romagna after the earthquake.
The material used to make an ordinary tyre possesses impressive technical and physical characteristics to ensure safe driving and high performance for drivers in every condition, even at elevated speeds and for the duration of its life cycle. 

These characteristics remain and they are transferred to the new products which, in turn, are done with rubber powder and granules obtained from shredding and grinding of end of life tyres. 

This means that the high capacity of absorbing impact, elasticity, and resistance to warping and atmospheric agents can be particularly useful for making anti-trauma surfaces for athletic tracks and fields, pavement for playgrounds, and, in general, for all those areas where sports or recreational activities take place and where there is a risk of accidental trauma and impact, which in this way is substantially prevented and limited as much as possible.   
In fact, the U.S. Commission for Consumer Product Safety recently demonstrated the utility and anti-trauma effectiveness of rubber surfaces and presented statistics showing that over 70% of the injuries to children at the playground is caused by falls. Using anti-trauma rubber pavements can reduce serious injury by 75%, naturally if associated with adequate safety training in elementary schools and at parks and playgrounds.

"Draining asphalt" roads made with rubber powder have several advantages: high duration of the surface and exceptional resistance to wear (international experience shows that they last three times longer than traditional asphalt roads), reduced noise,  excellent drainage during rain and much better visibility, and an excellent response in the event of sudden braking. 
These are the material values, but there are also immaterial values, such as freeing up space invaded by old tyres or fighting against buying tyres "under the counter", which later causes the phenomenon of illegal tyre dumping. Ecopneus dedicated a traveling show to these values, called "Materiale-Valore-Immateriale" [Material-Value-Immaterial] and featuring striking photos by Daniele Tamagni, the winner of the World Press Photo award in 2011 for the category Arts and Entertainment. From the immaterial to material: as Marco Gisotti, Director of the Green Drop Award, said, "More than the sense of smell and touch, it is sight that defines our reality. (…) Optimism is nurtured by images." 
This sustainable world also starts out from the information provided by Tamagni and Ecopneus, where the old tyre once again has the same poetry it did when we used to swing to and fro on it.

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