In 2017, the international standards organization ASTM formed a committee (D36) dedicated to developing standards for the growing field of recovered carbon black (rCB). This represents a much-needed step toward sustainability in the tyre industry.

The committee was formed from members of the organisation’s existing Committee on Carbon Black (D24), who identified a growing and distinct portfolio of standards that needed work related to recovered carbon-black products.

In Britain, all car and truck tyres must be recovered, recycled or reused, and worldwide, one billion tyres are scrapped each year when they’re no longer fit for vehicle use. That quantity grows at a rate of approximately 4% per year. With more and more consumers wanting to reduce their carbon footprint and demanding the same from manufacturers, it is not surprising that many major tyre and automotive companies are moving quickly towards corporate sustainability, and rCB must be part of that move.

Now with a dedicated committee for rCB, more focus will be put on the unique properties and testing requirements for the material. Said by Chris Norris, membership secretary of the committee and Analytical Services Manager at ARTIS:

“Conventional carbon black tests do not effectively predict how rCB performs in rubber applications, so this is one area of focus. We are also reviewing which current carbon black tests are appropriate, those that may need some method development for rCB, and new tests where required.” 

Due to the committee working on standards, recovered carbon black is likely to become a mainstream ingredient for the tyre manufacturing industry as well as other technical rubber products such as belts, seals, gaskets, and moulded parts.

Until standards are developed, the quality of rCB products is an open question and it is difficult for tyre manufacturers to fully commit to their use if the effects on rubber compounds are not fully understood. Tyres must have predictable and consistent qualities both for our safety and for the reputation of the manufacturers but that reputation will also be hugely enhanced if tyre manufacturers are seen to be investing in sustainable production. Many of them have already made commitments to use a percentage of recycled materials and rCB must become a part of that if we are to put a halt to the ever-expanding mountains of the end of life tyres.

As we have seen in the food industry with salt and sugar, if the industry does not move forward quickly of its own volition then eventually legislative measures will be taken that may be more disruptive. So let us applaud steps such as the D36 committee in moving us forward.