A new tyre recycling facility in Victoria, Australia, is putting people and the environment first.

Max Lam wants to do things differently. The Director of Autocycle International has a vision for a safe and sustainable future for tyre recycling in Australia and is setting the bar high at a new plant in the Melbourne suburb of Altona North.

For Max, it’s not all about profit, it’s about making a difference to the environment. And he’s surrounding himself with a team that shares the same values – from plant operators to product suppliers and collection contractors.

“We want to ensure we are a people-first business, from the welfare of our employees to the safety of truck drivers,” Max says.

“Profits are important, but it shouldn’t be the most important thing. We want people who have the same value in terms of how they see recycling. Should the business be about making a profit, or making a difference to the environment?

“What’s really important, is the team shares the same values as ours.”

Max is a seasoned environmental consultant and for more than 10 years has worked in contaminated land management and compliance issues.

He’s developed a network within the waste disposal industry and says he sensed a transformation of the industry several years ago, with many transferring their knowledge and skills to recycling.

With the introduction of government legislation and initiatives to tackle Australia’s waste, including a ban on the export of whole baled tyres, which came into effect on 1 December 2021, Max saw an opportunity.

Fortuitously, Doris Feng, whose family is involved in paper recycling in China, was looking to expand into Australia. For nearly 20 years the family business, UFO Tyres Industrial Pty Ltd, has also manufactured tyres from reclaimed rubber.

While he believes the Australia paper recycling space is full, Max says he is confident he and business partner Doris can make a difference in tyre recycling in Australia.

Autocycle International’s Altona North plant is designed by Eldan Recycling to recycle end-of-life passenger and truck tyres into a range of rubber products from 30 mesh rubber powder to 20mm rubber chips suitable for both Australian and international markets.

Max says Eldan Recycling’s reputation was a major motivator when choosing a company to build the processing plant.

“Not coming from a tyre recycling background, this is all new for me,” Max says. “Eldan and Carsten Nielsen (Technical Specialist and Area Sales Manager) provided a lot of extra support to make sure we understood the plant and what would work best for our situation.”

Carsten says there were numerous meetings via Teams and WhatsApp to determine the best solution for Autocycle. An Eldan Recycling project manager supported Max and the team through the entire build, from providing machine specifications to factory floor and foundation plans and duct installation – without being able to set foot on site.

Machinery arrived in Victoria amid COVID-19 restrictions so was unloaded by the Autocycle team. Installation, however, was a different story.

“It was quite a challenge,” Carsten says. “How should Autocycle know where to put things and how to assemble them?”

“I had a small window where I could arrive in Australia without going into quarantine. While in Australia, I had a couple of meetings with Autocycle about how and where the machines should go.”

An Eldan supervisor arrived in Australia early in 2022 to help set up the line. Carsten says he is in frequent contact with Autocycle and “will be for the future”.

The Altona North facility had a “soft launch” in November 2021 and was to be commissioned in February 2022.

Consistent with Autocycle International’s “people-first” policy, the facility adopts best practice and is designed to minimise fire, occupational health and safety risks for employees, the surrounding community, and the environment by eliminating the need for external storage of waste tyres.

“It’s the thought process behind the entire facility,” Max says. “We really want to come up with a different approach to the industry.

“Instead of becoming a storage-focused recycling business, we are a process-focused recycling business. How do we manage the number of tyres coming in and the product going out?

“It should be a smooth transaction. What comes in should always be treated the same day and go out as product. By doing that, we can eliminate the risk of fire or environmental damage.”

Max is aiming to make Autocycle International as sustainable as possible. He’s investing in best-practice in Australia and aims to be net-zero.

He sees the Altona North facility as a “pilot” facility and aims to identify a site for a larger, purpose-built plant by June 2022, which will incorporate manufacturing a range of rubber products.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with industry players to incorporate the best technologies available into the site,” Max says. “We’re making the whole loop as sustainable as possible. It’s a mutual interest between ourselves and industry partners.”

Original article from Waste Management Review