Four million tyres are replaced on vehicles in New Zealand every year but the limited options for processing them in New Zealand means many are shredded and dumped in landfills.
This environmental challenge is one that Steve Matthews and Andrew Melbourne, directors of Upper Hutt-based business Rubber Solutions, are committed to helping resolve every day.
For ten years, Steve was General Manager of South Pacific Tyres (SPT), the once Dunlop tyre factory which until it closed in 2006 manufactured 7,000 tyres per day, 24/7, seven days per week. Andrew worked at SPT as General Manager of Logistics and Procurement.
The end of one era prompted the beginning of another. The entrepreneurial pair now source rubber shavings (rubber buffed off truck tyres before they can be re-tread) and processes them in a custom-built machine which produces finely ground crumbs of rubber.
“Rubber saved from tyres is a really valuable resource with many qualities. It can and should be used in productive ways. Nobody wants it to end up in a landfill” Andrew says.
Using rubber crumb in roads has become ingredient in many countries. “The rubber not only makes the roads quieter for motorists” Andrew explains “but it also makes the roads more durable so fewer repairs are needed. The cost savings for transport authorities is significant”.
Rubber Solutions recently shipped 600 tonnes to Australia, where it will be mixed with bitumen by Sydney’s transport authorities. Andrew and Steve continue to work closely with New Zealand’s Ministries for the Environment and transport, and roading companies, to increase the chance of rubber crumb being used on New Zealand roads in the future. “That’s our ultimate aim” Steve says.
The environmentally conscious business also makes special grades of rubber crumb for recreational settings like horse arenas and playgrounds. Its rubber crumb is also used in adhesives necessary for re-treading truck tyres.
Committed to growing its well established market, Rubber Solutions is working closely with a neighbouring business at South Pacific Industrial Park (SPIP) to develop a carpet underlay using rubber crumb and foam and an Auckland-based company is using rubber crumb in an innovative shock pad laid underneath artificial turf.
Steve is 100% committed to Upper Hutt having lived locally for 40 years. “It’s a very business friendly place. Its history of manufacturing means that businesses like ours are encouraged. Being close to Wellington’s Port gives us easy access to customers and suppliers in the South Island.
My commute to work is seven minutes and Andrew’s drive from Wellington is half an hour against the traffic. By international standards that is nothing” Steve says. “With beautiful farmland, open spaces, parks and golf courses nearby, Upper Hutt offers people a well-balanced life style.”
Steve knows SPIP like the back of his hand. “It’s my second home” he says proudly. “It’s gone from having 480 people around when SPT was in business to absolutely nobody when it closed. Now it’s humming again with many people from a diverse range of businesses. It’s brilliant to see”.