In the first of her contributions to Nirvana’s Material Monday series, Ma-tt-er’s Seetal Solanki focuses on a sustainable solution for the ever-increasing use of carbon black.
Black Bear Carbon is a granulate made entirely of upcycled rubber tyres that have come to the end of their life, and can be used as a pigment, ink or paint. It is much more sustainable than the toxic carbon black we currently use, and is produced by a Dutch company, founded in Rotterdam in 2010, which set a precedent by converting a waste product that is considered extremely harmful to the environment into a ‘green’ energy solution.
Waste tyres are one of the most pressing environmental issues facing the world. Worldwide, approximately 1 billion tyres are produced annually, with an equal amount going to waste. Together, this equates to about 17 million tonnes of tyre waste. Black Bear Carbon has challenged this problem and come up with a positive solution. The company saw tyre production as an abundant source of materials, and set out to prevent them from sitting in landfills or being dumped, as they often are today.
By consuming around 20% of Europe’s waste tyres, Black Bear Carbon estimate they could generate approximately 230,000 tonnes of ‘green’ carbon black, saving 1.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, 390 million cubic metres of natural gas and 2,500 litres of crude oil per tonne of tyre waste. It’s a process that turns a huge negative into a huge positive, especially with global demands for tyres set to hit 2.9 billion units in 2017.
To create the granulate, tyres are deconstructed by mechanically shredding, chipping and granulating them. This allows the rubber to be separated from other materials such as steel and fabrics. A lower amount of energy is needed for these processes in comparison to the oil-rich techniques involved in creating traditional carbon black.
The applications for this wondrous material are extremely varied. It can revolutionise the printing processes through use in adhesive applications, flexographic packaging, gravure packaging, inkjets and a number of other ink-based processes, as well as carbon black coatings within the automotive industry, powder coatings and many others. Black Bear Carbon also provides excellent durability, UV stability and high-tinting strength. Pre-milled to an extremely fine particle size, carbon black is noted for its fast and easy dispersion properties, its consistent performance and dust-free handling. Yielding a particularly high wetness and tinting strength, this is an eco-friendly, full replacement carbon black for the industry’s tinting and full-tone applications. All in all, it is a great alternative to its predecessor.