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Cabot and rCB

“Whatever you do don’t think about a white elephant”..  an old psychological trick which, of course, immediately raises this very image in your mind.  Bart Kalkstein, president, reinforcement materials at Cabot Corp, may have inadvertently employed this mechanism when ‘dissing’ recovered Carbon Black(rCB).  “Whatever you do, don’t think that rCB can be used in tyres”…….

Whilst he was responding to questions presented in an interview, expressing limitations of rCB flags Cabot’s lack of knowledge of emergent rCBs. It also implies a concern this material is an emergent threat to the CB industry and Kalkstein is thus, effectively, acknowledging rCB is going to be a significant factor in the future of tyre manufacture.

The CB industry is coming under increasing environmental pressure, and quite rightly.  Plants in the USA are having to meet more stringent emissions controls, leading to fines, increased costs and/or plant closures. (https://cen.acs.org/articles/96/i2/3-US-makers-carbon-black.html).  

Furthermore, each kg of carbon black requires ~1.6 litres of oil (or the equivalent in gas).

Scandinavian Enviro Systems has had an independent Life Cycle Analysis undertaken for its rCB that demonstrates an 80% reduction in GHG emissions compared to virgin CB.

So, what of the points that Kalkstein made over the limitations of rCB?  Firstly, the statements are inaccurate as rCB has been used at up to 100% replacement in certain applications without compromising compound performance.

However, Karlkstein’s comments could also be interpreted as a wish by Cabot (and probably other CB manufacturers) to avoid change. Embracing the circular economy won’t be easy. Tyre manufacturers, who consume 70% of all carbon black, are faced with the need to reduce rolling resistance and tyre weight, which requires new tyre designs and materials.  Meeting ever higher performance goals whilst also recycling materials is a major challenge.  However, there will be solutions and they are working on it.

Ultimately, of course, Cabot et al will reduce their contribution to the environmental and resource abuse that End of Life Tyres represent.  Tyre pyrolysis will not be the only technology used in support of the Circular Economy, and it is almost certain that virgin CB will be needed for years to come, but perhaps in lower and lower quantities.  Perhaps CB manufacturers should embrace pyrolysis.

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