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Ecopneus takes action to support a general culture of recycling that is essential for the environment, the economy and road safety

Paolo Castiglia

TO RE-LAUNCH a general culture of recycling end of life tyres with positive consequences that are essential for the environment, the economy and road safety. This is the aim of Ecopneus, a protagonist from 7 to 10 November 2012 at the major Ecomondo event in Rimini, with two important appointments: the presentation of the book, “A second chance to give our waste a new life”, by Quintino Protopapa and Giovanni Corbetta, director general of Ecopneus, and the Ecopneus workshop “Green rubber – Recycling and sustainability for asphalt, sport, road safety. The uses of recycled rubber from end of life tyres”.
As we know, Ecopneus is one of Italy’s main entities responsible for the management and treatment of end of life tyres. It wanted to increase its presence by launching a book, the introduction to which is already a statement of its intention “to make a subtle and tasteful presentation of the reasonable and virtuous behaviour required to throw off a past of wastefulness  and redirect our habits, but also our way of thinking, towards a new conception of refuse and the future”, as explained at the event by Edo Ronchi, former Minister for the Environment and now chairman of the Foundation for Sustainable Development.
A fundamental element of Ecopneus’ socio-environmental operations – as Giovanni Corbetta explained to us in a very interesting conversation during the presentation of the book – is the start of a new system for managing end of life tyres. “Just over a year ago”  –  he told us – “and under its own responsibility, Ecopneus began to collect and manage ELTs from registered refuse generation points, guaranteeing their total and correct recovery. The result is of environmental and economic value because it means that tens of thousands of tons of ELTs are not abandoned and precious materials can be recovered for reuse in production processes”.
Thanks to an innovative computerized management system and collaboration with firms selected on the basis of such parameters as the quality of the service offered, plant technology, capacity, efficiency and experience, Ecopneus has built up and coordinates a network that covers the entire national territory and handles: the collection of ELTs from registered generation points throughout the national territory and their removal to storage points from which they are then taken to crushing plants for subsequent treatment, recycling and recovery at selected plants, with the supervision of all the recovery work.
At the workshop the following day, Giovanni Corbetta began by describing the characteristics and advantages of the Ecopneus system and illustrated that “from the correct delivery and recovery of end of life tyres it is possible to obtain secondary raw materials with particularly advantageous applications, for example in the road and urban furnishings sector”. Corbetta explained that it emerged from the work that “the possibility of obtaining materials for our safety and comfort, when we are driving and when we are close to a road, also confirms the value and importance of recovery and increasingly encourages the correct channelling of flows of material”.
The various infrastructures are one of the elements that affect driving and we work on them by trying to reduce the consequences of road accidents. Polymeric materials (rubber) have the ability to absorb impact and because they are less rigid than the materials normally used for protection on the roads, the granules derived from ELTs are particularly suitable for reducing the consequences of any type of collision and impact”.
In four different sessions, the workshop dealt with the main aspects of developing the market and the applications for rubber recycled from ELTs. From the unequivocal definition of standards for secondary raw materials to strategies for strengthening and supporting the market, to the advantages and benefits of products based on rubber granules or powder obtained from end of life tyres.
Going in this direction is the Catalogue of Products from ELT Rubber produced by Ecopneus in collaboration with Matrec, which can be freely consulted on the Ecopneus website.
The initiative stems from an Ecopneus project. In collaboration with Matrec (Eco Material database), the first Made in Italy databank of international eco-design, it carried out a study of the recycled rubber products sold in Italy and inserted them in an online catalogue, the aim of which is to shine the spotlight on firms with environment-friendly manufacturing processes and ELT-derived rubber products for multiple uses.
Whether they are for soundproofing panels to reduce acoustic pollution, football pitches, guard-rail coatings, shock absorbing flooring for children’s play areas, or urban furnishings such as parking bollards, speed bumps and traffic boundaries, there is a vast number of uses for these materials and they all enhance the natural properties of rubber.
To date, there are 180 profiles of over 40 different types of product. Use by companies is free, voluntary and non-commercial.

• The Ecopneus mission
The Ecopneus mission is to collect, treat and subsequently recover a large part of over 380,000 tons of tyres that reach the end of their life every year in Italy. Its responsibilities include a quantity of ELTs in proportion to the market share held by its members. This is why “the investment of resources and a strong commitment to research and development to foster the spread of applications for granules and powders derived from treating ELTs in support of and together with the companies in the sector” – stated director Giovanni Corbetta – “are an integral part of the consortium’s operating objectives. In our opinion, giving visibility to companies that recover materials from recycled ELTS contributes to strengthening a market with strong potential for development”.

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