Old truck tyres get a second life as rubber crumb used in green flooring

Rubber crumb from recycled truck tyres are used to create innovative flooring. Picture: Supplied

Rubber crumb from recycled truck tyres are used to create innovative flooring. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 3, 2024


Mathe Group is recycling around 1,000 radial truck tyres per day to produce 45 tonnes of rubber crumb.

Many of Mathe Group’s products are distributed internationally and the innovative rubber flooring solutions helped establish the growing company.

Dr Mehran Zarrebini, CEO of Mathe Group, said that in 2013 sister company Van Dyck wanted to enhance the sustainability of its product range by incorporating recycled content. However, the availability of rubber crumb was limited so they resorted to importing.

“This was paradoxical given the abundance of local waste tyre material. This prompted us to engage with Mathe Group, a firm based in New Germany with a nascent operation constrained by its waste management license's capacity,” Zarrebini said.

“Our growing demand soon outstripped their supply capabilities, compelling us to invest in the development of a new facility. This not only secured Van Dyck's supply chain but also presented an opportunity to cultivate the South African market for rubber crumb,” he explained.

The collaboration with The Flooring Connection (TFC), which brings together Instafloor SA and Instafloor UK and Van Dyck, spans several years.

“Our initial engagement involved providing acoustic underlay products. Through our partnership with Instafloor South Africa, they have also procured advanced acoustic solutions,” Zarrebini said.

Jonathan Bodley, head of The Flooring Connection (TFC) said: “Partnering with Dr Zarrebini of the Mathe Group and Van Dyck (PFE) was a natural choice. Our partnership is grounded in our shared goal of greening the flooring industry.

Bodley said that because all Van Dyck’s products are tested to international specifications, his company can market and export products made locally that can compete against less sustainable alternatives on both quality and cost.

InstaCradle rubber crumb subflooring cradles were initially used for raised acoustic flooring in the sports and office environment to absorb impact force and sound. Now they are used in decking, specifically in situations where waterproofing needs to be protected.

The have also developed the EcoPaver Cradle for external, permeable paving, allowing for easy water runoff and the creation of water reticulation systems.

Rubber crumb underlays, long used in the flooring industry, are now being used as acoustic barriers under standard cement screeds and as low-profile solutions for self-leveling screeds.

These products have proven remarkably versatile with contractors finding unexpected ways to utilise them. For example, InstaCradles are now used in acoustic recording studios, to install wall cladding, support roofing joists and to hold the feet of solar geysers.

Although South Africa is still relatively new to the modern green building wave, Bodley and Zarrebini believe that demand and awareness of green building products are growing.

Zarrebini is confident that integrating recycled rubber into flooring solutions offers multifaceted benefits, including a significant reduction in the dependence on imported raw materials like virgin rubber which, ultimately, contributes to a more sustainable manufacturing ecosystem.

“Our future expansion plans will accommodate the dual objectives of supplying rubber crumb to external customers and leveraging it for the valorisation in our locally manufactured acoustic products,” Zarrebini said.

Bodley said: “The recycled rubber crumb product range attains the highest acoustic performance standards whilst having a positive environmental impact.”

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