The 2 500 sq/m factory and 1 000 sq/m warehouse that came on stream in February are equipped with approximately R20 million worth of cutting edge equipment that was brought in from China last year. Based on sophisticated American technology, it is the first of its kind in South Africa.
“It has the capacity to manufacture two tons of truck tyres per hour and up to 24 tons per day. At present, we are feeding in a truck tyre every 1 ½ minutes,” said Vusumuzi Mathe, the entrepreneur who set up Mathe Group in 2010.
Mathe Group began reprocessing used and legacy truck tyres into rubber crumb (or granulate) in very limited quantities in late 2011. In 2013, the company obtained a licence to manufacture rubber crumb without restriction on quantities and set up a small 850 sq/m factory in New Germany.
Construction of the new Hammarsdale facility began in early 2015 as a means of relocating and updating the very constrained operation in New Germany.
“The new operation is four times larger than its predecessor. It is a completely different plant and far more advanced,” Mathe said.
The new factory is highly automated and has allowed Mathe Group to up skill the staff working at the New Germany operation to operate the new equipment. There is also potential to grow the workforce as the throughput and the number of end products grows.
The new Hammarsdale plant also includes improved dust extraction equipment that ensures the health and safety of workers.
The New Germany operation is in the process of being disassembled. Some of the equipment will be relocated to Hammarsdale for the manufacture of specialised products in smaller volumes.
The Hammarsdale ammarsdale expansion has been constructed alongside sister company PFE Extrusion which is a leading producer of polyolefin staple fibres. PFE International is the shareholder in South African carpet giant Van Dyck Carpets which uses large amounts of rubber crumb to manufacture acoustic underlays used under soft and resilient flooring and acoustic cradles used in the built environment to eliminate variations in the structural floor surface and to accommodate services.
According to Mathe, Mathe Group processed approximately 40 000 tyres during 2015. Over the next two years, this is expected to dramatically increase to approximately 150 000 tyres. These 150 000 tyres will produce approximately 7,000 tons of rubber crumb per annum.
The Hammarsdale plant currently processes radial truck tyres. The tyres are sorted and then undergo a three phase crushing process. Separators produce different sized particles suitable for different end uses and according to customer requirements.
Magnets remove the metal components from the reprocessed tyres. The new plant is expected to produce around 350 tons of high tensile steel per month. This will be passed on for recycling. Mathe said that, although they have been approached by steel recycling companies internationally, they are also looking at working with South African steel recyclers. This will be an important additional revenue stream for the business.
The number of uses for rubber crumb has grown exponentially within a very short space of time. In addition to the acoustic underlays and cradles produced by Van Dyck, it is also used as a foundation or infill for sports fields, public spaces and playgrounds utilising artificial turf or grass. Other uses include rubber flooring and paving, inclusion into asphalt, rubber landscaping and kerbing. Uses that are yet to come to South Africa include noise barriers placed between highways and residential areas, traffic bollards and flexible decking.
At present, 50 percent of the rubber crumb produced at Mathe Group Hammarsdale is exported. The remainder is sold locally with a large portion going into downstream exports through the manufacture of products that are sold globally.
Mathe said that Mathe Group enjoyed a strong working relationship with Redisa, through which it receives deliveries of used truck tyres daily. Most are trucked in from all over the country including the KZN area. The Hammarsdale factory consumes 350 truck tyres each shift.
The Redisa Integrated Industry Waste Tyre Management Plan was approved by parliament in November 2012. It supports and promotes tyre recycling, providing the collection and depot infrastructure required to collect waste tyres from across the entire country and deliver them to approved processors and recyclers.
This is funded via the tyre levy which is collected from tyre manufacturers in the form of a waste management fee charged on each kg of tyre rubber that is produced.
This initiative is intended to drastically reduce the stockpile of waste tyres that has accumulated in South Africa for decades. Each year, an estimated 11 million waste tyres are added to this.
As tyres are designed to be robust and durable, they are notoriously difficult to recycle and take extremely long periods to biodegrade. The mounting number of waste tyres in South Africa has become a health and environmental hazard.
Mathe said the company was pleased to be making a contribution to improving the environment and would work closely with Redisa on developing applications for the use of waste tyres going forward.
He said that the processors rebate paid to Mathe Group by Redisa for the processing of waste tyres is earmarked for development and training as well as investment in additional equipment such as laboratory equipment to ensure quality consistency and the high standards demanded by its clients.
A selection of photographs is available. Please advise if you would like more photographs
1776 – An overhead photograph of the new tyre shredding equipment installed in the Mathe Group factory in Hammarsdale.
1780 – The finish line of the equipment installed in the new Mathe Group Hammarsdale factory. In front on the right are stacks of rubber crumb packed into 25kg bags ready for delivery.
365, 366 & 373 – Rubber crumbing awaiting further grinding into fine powder.
0371 – Milling machines that reduce the size of the particles
368 – The stock of tyres for shredding and recycling in the new Mathe Group factory
061 – Mr Vusumuzi Mathe with one of the truck tyres