Waste management operates under the framework of the waste hierarchy, which prioritizes waste prevention. If waste generation cannot be avoided, the hierarchy dictates preparation for reuse, recycling, other forms of recovery including energy, and as a last resort, disposal. (citation: HomePage - Ministerstvo životního prostředí (mzp.cz))
The best way to explain waste management options is through the waste hierarchy scheme, where the most beneficial waste management methods occupy the top and the least beneficial methods, logically, reside at the bottom.
The company ASSCO deals with EPDM waste and SBR rubber mulch.
Regarding EPDM waste, it pertains to waste generated during the manufacturing of primary EPDM products. This constitutes clean manufacturing waste, known as Post Industrial Waste, not Post Consumer Waste (such as end-of-life EPDM products).
In the case of rubber mulch, it involves the utilization of end-of-life tires (ELT tires), where the tire is buffed for the placement of a new tread, a process known as "retreading." This buffed waste is collected by our company, ASSCO, and subsequently transformed into high-quality material. The issue of end-of-life tires is precisely detailed RPG website: Sustainability - RPG Recycling, s.r.o. However, we will now focus on the technical waste of EPDM.
The best approach is waste reduction during primary product manufacturing.
Secondly, reusing technological waste from manufacturing at the point of generation seems promising. However, this solution might be costly for many companies, leaving room for choices on how to manage such waste. The reuse of waste also includes forms like dust, where EPDM crumb rubber is utilized for producing other products through fine grinding. The resulting dust could be than used as filler for new rubber mixtures in the rubber industry and asphalt modification. Another known option is combining devulcanized crumb rubber in multi-component mixtures with PP and HDPE thermopolymers. Nevertheless, the percentage of waste utilization in these mixtures remains low, primarily due to the stringent requirements for the quality of primary mixtures used in creating new EPDM products.
The third-best option is recycling – breaking down materials into original components. For EPDM materials, this primarily involves rubber, though EPDM seals often contain aluminium or iron structures. ASSCO, however, can separate and return these aluminium/ stell structures to the metallurgical industry. This helps reduce the demand for producing new synthetic rubber and metallurgical materials.
The fourth choice is utilizing materials for energy production. However, from a sustainability perspective, this is not very advantageous, as the original product is destroyed, resulting in only a fraction of the energy invested in the original product's production.
Waste-dumps: that is the last and worst option. While it remains common in certain parts of the world, it poses significant environmental burdens, with environmental protection often neglected in these regions.
In the Czech Republic, the first Waste Act was established in 1991. Presently, waste management is governed by Act No. 541/2020 Coll., which became effective on January 1, 2021. This Act outlines the rights and obligations of waste management stakeholders and promotes the principles of circular economy, environmental protection, and human health in waste management. The disposal of end-of-life products is governed by Act No. 542/2020 Coll., effective from January 1, 2021. Waste from packaging is regulated by Act No. 477/2001 Coll., on Packaging, as amended. (citation: HomePage - Ministerstvo životního prostředí (mzp.cz))
The waste hierarchy is part of EU legislation, specifically Directive 2008/98, and is implemented as environmental legislation in other parts of the world. For EU member states, it is mandatory to prioritize waste disposal solutions according to the hierarchy's top levels. The scientific tool for assessing the impact of various waste disposal solutions is called LCA – Life Cycle Assessment.
Recycled EPDM rubber is widely applied in contexts where it comes into direct contact with nature. For illustration, consider its use as infill material on synthetic turf fields or its incorporation into asphalt for road construction. It also finds extensive usage in industries and construction, where recycled rubber is molded into various-sized sheets using binders for applications like anti-vibration mats, soundproof panels, and more (Products - GELPO, s.r.o.). Numerous scientific studies worldwide have analysed the environmental impacts of recycled rubber.
One of the most significant ecological concerns is the potential leaching of organic chemicals from recycled rubber, known as PAHs. Commission Regulation (EU) 2021/1199 dated July 20, 2021, set a maximum content of 20 mg/kg for the sum of eight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that granules or mulch made from recycled rubber might contain. These materials are used as infill on synthetic turf fields or as loose fill on playgrounds and sports fields.
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