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A look at scrap tyre recycling in South Africa

End-of-life tyres constitute a major environmental hazard in many countries around the world including the Middle East and Africa.

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June 22 2020
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Each country or region has its own issues in dealing with millions of end-of-life tyres that are either being disposed of in landfills or illegally dumped, with only small amounts being recycled. Swaliha Shanavas speaks to industry experts in South Africa to understand the state of the tyre recycling industry, regulatory issues, key challenges, current trends and developments in the sector. Two case studies also highlight the possibilities the sector presents in South Africa and Middle East.

In South Africa, though accurate figures are not available, “an estimated 14 to 16m tyres per year, along with the backlog of mining tyres amounts to over 250,000t being currently stockpiled,” says Oscar Filen, CEO, Xtyre.  

On the production/import of tyres into the country, Adriaan Le Roux, Owner at SAS MTC Consultants Pty Ltd., says there are four main tyre manufacturers that produce between 11 to 12 million tyres per year. “Not all tyres are manufactured locally; some are imported by over 200 importers from around the globe, which accounts for about 6 million imported tyres per year. Second hand tyres that have about 1.6mm to 2mm tyre tread left are imported into the country, of which about 50% is not even suitable for South African roads. Two million tyres manufactured in South Africa are exported to SADC countries, while about 40% of passenger tyres and 60% of all truck and OTR tyres are being imported,” he notes. 

So what amount gets recycled in the country and are there enough competent facilities? About 10 to 20% is being recycled, “because there is no financial incentive and the mines will not bother with recycling unless they have a legal obligation,” Filen opines.

“This number did improve rapidly over the last couple of years due to the expanding recycling market. But there aren’t enough highly competent tyre recyclers and South Africa needs to emphasise the importance of tyre recycling locally and all associated benefits,” says Le Roux. In his view, there is a need for more entrepreneurs and environmental consultants who specialise in tyre recycling; consultants who can assist entrepreneurs and existing tyre recyclers in making this whole process feasible and more productive. “Tyre waste is roughly estimated at about 200,000 tons and 35% of the “total” amount is now being diverted away from landfill to recyclers,” he adds. 

State of tyre recycling in South Africa; key issues

“The tyre recycling industry is in disarray as lack of clear, focused legislations that guide the handling, disposal and processing of waste tyres remain challenging. The government collects a tyre tax, but has failed to implement a sustainable recycling model,” says XTyre CEO. They have possibly 3 medium sized profitable entities in South Africa dealing with end-of-life tyres and there are a few small companies shredding tyres. But there are empty pyrolysis, whole tyre recycling and granulating plants waiting for legislation to be finalised, he comments.

“It is a relatively new market that we enter on the much larger tyres like the OTR tyres, which is rapidly expanding day by day. Research and much needed resources are not available everywhere yet,” Le Roux notes. Tyres require large amounts of landfill space, but on the other hand, high operational costs make the business unattractive especially for the much larger OTR tyres that are extremely difficult to handle and process due to their actual size and abnormal weight, he says.  

Regulations and support for recycling  

The country has formal regulations that govern the management of end-of-life tyres as per which the disposal of end-of-life tyres at landfill sites is forbidden. “The South African government is supportive of the recycling sector and there are specific regulations in place to protect the environment and recyclers’ safety,” says Le Roux. Another initiative of the Department of Environmental Affairs is that the waste management regulations “have become more transparent and are not limited to a specific group of companies or individuals.”

With regard to an EPR system in the country, he says at present there is no visible plan from the South African government to implement this system. “We had begun researching an ideal ERP system and its implementation in 2018, which is an ongoing process, and this requires appropriately weighing the potential benefits (such as heightened efficiencies, improved business processes) against the potential downsides such as software licensing and implementation costs, extended timelines, user acceptance and the risks of possible system failure,” Le Roux notes.

Filen has a different view on the support received. Xtyre currently enjoys a huge demand across all ranges and they have doubled capacity in a year, but are still with a 4 to 6 week lead time on some projects, he says, also adding that “the government gives us no support whatsoever and whatever recycling and upcycling we do is self-sustaining.”

Key initiatives and sustainable solutions

SAS MTC Consultants is a group of experts and engineering partners that have “hands-on sound experience of providing practical on the ground advice” where they create more awareness and enactment within the Mining, Industrial and Municipal sectors. They explore possibilities with recycled rubber to enable a much bigger feasible market, and work on modern recycling concepts and business plans to create an efficient profitable recycling business for clients, the owner states. “An additional initiative we have undertaken is to research another problematic area namely rubber conveyor belts that are being dumped on industrial and other landfill sites mainly in the Mining sector.”  

Xtyre focuses on maximising the highest return per kg of recycled rubber crumb by way of innovation and new applications, and another principle is to add value and sell moulded products “as close to source as possible,” says Filen, “This is achieved by replacing traditional virgin materials with recycled rubber mouldings or composites with our current range over 250 line items. We have a low startup cost and an infinitely scalable business model via a licensed manufacturing agreement with technology transfers,” he remarks. With strong R&D, marketing, admin and product support, he says they are currently in discussions with 14 different countries and anticipate operations in seven countries finalised this year with a global website and common branding attracting collaborative supply agreements.

Current trends and opportunities  

The current trends in the tyre recycling industry are based on the “end users/end products,” Le Roux opines. For instance, fashion accessories, furniture, rugs, mats, pot planters, garage gym equipment, rubber crumbs for playground products, railway crossing barriers, rubber for protective and architectural coating applications, steel extraction, pyrolysis – “possibilities are endless and yet we are merely scratching the surface. Skills transfer and job opportunities are some of the positive factors for contributing back to the local communities,” he highlights. 

The international value Filen would like to convey is that “a mixed kg. of processed rubber is now cheaper than a mixed kg. of recycled extruded plastic, and in many cases by design cheaper than concrete mouldings, wood, virgin rubber and plastics,” also adding that they offer innovations such as moulded waterproofing solutions, Rubber-duck a rubber infused coating for rooftops, floors and even pallets.

Expanding into the Middle East

Epsco Kuwait has recently entered into a manufacturing under licence agreement with Xtyre “and commissioned a beautiful plant which will be running soon if Covid-19 allows us,” notes Filen. “This will be our 2nd licence and our first out of South Africa. Kuwait has bought a few different technologies together creating a full tyre recycling hub, adding as much value per kg as possible, reinforcing that scrap rubber is an infinitely renewable resource.”

The market has finally matured that allows them the margins to run a profitable business relevant to most countries, he observes. “We can literally save the world one tyre at a time with just on 1.5 billion metric tonnes being added to our raw material supply each year.”


Young entrepreneur makes shine and shoe polish products from end-of-life tyres  

Mzokhona Maxase shares his story and business ambitions with Swaliha Shanavas. Born and raised in a small town in Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa, and currently residing in a township in Johannesburg, this young entrepreneur established Cubic38, a company that specialises in creating shine and shoe polish products from recycled tyres. To create these products, Maxase relies on char – a by-product of scrap tyre recycling.

So, how did this idea come about and when did he create the start-up? Maxase says Cubic38 was formed in 2017 in a small car garage at muzinda residence, Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), and that he teamed up with Tshepo Sithole, also a student from TUT, to set up the company “with the mission and goal to create high quality and affordable products for daily use form non-conventional sources such as scrap tyres or processed rubber.”

End-of-life tyres have accumulated at landfills in South Africa, while some are illegally dumped in open spaces or resold, he says, adding that he wanted to find sustainable solutions to the problem, which poses major risks to the environment in the country. “Our products are created to be environmentally friendly right from the manufacturing process to the end user, which is the consumer.”

Notably, Maxase highlights his business as a solution to social issues, noting that through this initiative “we will also be creating new jobs for many South Africans involved in the value chain of our products, and creating value for goods that are regarded as waste.”

So, does he receive any kind of support from the government or other entities? He reveals that they have developed their products made from scrap tyre derived char with the help of both private and government agencies, mainly through grants and mentorship, which he says, “has allowed us to slowly setup our business sustainably and send them for formal Lab testing at the Nelson Mandela University.”

Commenting on the features and competitive advantage of the two products, the entrepreneur says, Cubic shoe polish is a wax based product that has been formulated with “special ingredients” that produce the “best shine” when applied on leather, which also protects leather from water damage. Further, the ingredients used ensure that the polish can be easily removed if it spills on the hands or any other part of the body, and also provide a pleasant smell to the polish, he adds.

With regard to their target market for this product, he says they will be mainly focusing on “the working class who wear black leather or synthetic shoe on a daily basis, e.g., police offices to office staff, with affordability and quality being our main goals.” The shoe polish is affordable, protects leather from water damage and provides a long lasting black shine, he comments.

As for the Cubic Tyre Shine, Maxase says it was created to meet the requirements of consumers who used conventional shoe polish to shine their tyres, “which proved to be far from 100 percent effective because it left dark marks on the rims and attracted dust because of its wax base.” High gloss products produced by certain companies are very expensive to many consumers, leading to a large number of car owners and car washes preferring the use of black shoes polish, he explains. “So as cubic tyre shine, we aim to produce a high quality solution that is very effective and low cost, so many consumers can afford to keep their cars in good condition without paying a high price.”

He is targeting the car wash sector in addition to individual car owners. And they aim to create this product for car washes around Pretoria west, sole car owners who personally clean their cars on a weekly basis, and mobile car washes located in estates and malls, says the entrepreneur. 

Does he think the business model is viable? And how does he plan to make it sustainable in the long run? Cubic38 is currently facing many inefficiencies in their production  process, Maxase notes. “We believe that as we refine our process, we will be a sustainable business, which will contribute to the overall reduction of waste tyres that impact the environment,” he confidently says.


As urbanisation and the number of vehicles on our roads continue to grow, so too does the volumes of end-of-life tyres (ELT). The WBCSD Tyre Industry Project (TIP) – a voluntary, CEO-led initiative undertaken by 11 leading tyre companies estimated that one billion tyres reach the end of their useful lives annually. Over 80 percent of these (about 233 million tyres) are reused or recycled in some way. About 130 million tyres are used annually as tyre-derived fuel (TDF), making TDF the single biggest use for old tires.

Energy recovery can be a particularly efficient way to deal with high volumes of ELT and eliminate long-standing stockpiles because it is generally technically straightforward to implement and can be deployed on a large scale to achieve relatively quick pay-back for the initial investment. TDF offers a realistic cost-efficient alternative to fossil fuels and can increase the profits of a number of major industries such as cement producers, paper mills and energy utilities. When burned, tyres generate the same amount of energy as oil; 25%–50% more energy than coal, and 100%–200% more energy than wood.

The range of twin shaft, high torque shredders available from Edge Innovate can offer waste operators an efficient solution for processing of ELTs. The company offers various shredding chamber configurations that allow them to be utilised either for primary shredding or for precise secondary shredding, ensuring a homogeneous particle size that satisfies consumer specifications.

Edge Innovate has proven experience of shredding tyres in the Middle East. In 2019, the company installed a fleet of customised Slayer XL, slow speed, high torque shredders in Oman. Each shredder processes up to 500 tyres per hour to a final piece size of minus 150mm. Up to 90% of the ferrous metal found in the tyres processed is also recovered thanks to an adjustable overband magnet found on the Edge Slayer XL model. At the current processing rate, the company says, one Edge Slayer XL has the potential to shred up to 960,000 tyres annually.

The company recently launched a new high capacity shredder at CONEXPO 2020. The new Edge VS420 is a high torque twin shaft shredder that is ideal for the processing of a large array of materials including green waste, MSW, C&D waste, biomass, and ELTs. The company’s next generation shredder is said to have been developed for ultimate versatility and high resistance to contaminants with several customisable shredding programmes and chamber configurations available. According to Edge, it is an “intelligent operating system” which incorporates tramp metal protection provides maximum security from contaminants and prevents asset damage. “Our shredder range has been designed for the most rugged and toughest of jobs in the recycling industry. With a solid robust chassis and huge torque, the Edge shredder range is the ideal shredding aid for the recovery and repurposing of used tyres and rubber.”

For more information on Edge’s range of next generation shredders please visit: