Black Bear Carbon: Bringing the Circular Economy to Tires

Netherlands-based Black Bear Carbon recycles old car tires and turns them into ink, carpets and car parts.

26.07.2019 | by Kezia Parkins
Photo by Imthaz Ahamed on Unsplash
Photo by Imthaz Ahamed on Unsplash

Driving a car is not the only polluting factor of owning one. Every year, 1.5 billion tires are thrown away and burnt, producing toxins that pollute the environment. 

Carbon black is a crucial chemical component in rubber, plastics, inks and paints and is used to modify their properties into usable products. It is used in tires to increase their strength and durability. 

Almost everything that you see around you that is black in colour has carbon black in it — our mobile phone case, the ink in your pen, the buttons on your keyboard… and the tires on your car. Carbon Black is everywhere. Current manufacturers produce carbon black by combusting oil (the “furnace process”), emitting polluting CO₂. 

Black Bear Carbon is a green, recovered carbon black (rCB) manufacturer that produces carbon black using end-of-life tires instead of fossil oil as a resource material. 

“We believe that we can save considerable amounts of CO₂ in the carbon black market, solve the waste-tire problem and operate a profitable business at the same time,” the Dutch scale-up recently stated in a press release

Using breakthrough technology,  Black Bear recovers carbon black from used tires in a clean and sustainable way.

They heat up old tires, breaking down the rubber to create pellets containing carbon black. The pellets are then sent to manufacturers to create brand new products. 

The remaining 60 percent of the tyre is then converted into oil and gas which is used to create green electricity for fuelling the process. 

This means that the company actually has a negative footprint.

The company wants to ensure that every used tyre is recycled and put to good use. 

Black Bear’s plant has the capability to process 1 million tires a year. If there were to be 800 more plants doing the same, every single one of the 1.5 billion tires that get burnt every year would be able to be recycled. Yes, all of them. 

This would dramatically decrease CO2 emissions, equivalent to planting more than 1 billion trees and reducing global oil consumption by 215 million barrels.

Let that sit for a minute. 

The World Economic Forum (WEC) has recognised Black Bear for its unique and innovative approach to solving the global waste tire problem and potential to boost circular economies around the world.

Earlier this month WEC named Black Bear as one of its Technology Pioneers of 2019 who are shaping industries from agriculture and cleantech to modern policing and many more.  

The World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers are early to growth-stage companies from around the world that are involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies and innovations, and are poised to have a significant impact on business and society.

The Technology Pioneers were chosen by a selection committee of more than 59 academics, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and corporate executives. The committee based its decisions on criteria including innovation, potential impact and leadership. 

“It’s an absolute honour to be acknowledged as a pioneer by the World Economic Forum”, said Black Bear’s CEO Martijn Lopes Cardozo. 

“It is a confirmation that our technology is unique and that it carries the potential to have a global impact on both environmental and societal levels. We’ve tackled the waste tire problem by following principles of the Circular Economy: we identified a waste stream and figured out how to recover these valuable materials as sustainably as possible. We believe that a worldwide transition to a circular economy is essential in solving the climate crisis. This makes it extra rewarding that we’ve been named a Tech Pioneer and we are looking forward contributing to the Forum dialogues.”

Companies were selected for their potential to “transform their industries” and “improve society for years to come,” Fulvia Montresor, Head of Technology Pioneers at the World Economic Forum. 

“We’re excited to welcome Black Bear to this year’s innovative class of technology pioneers,” says Fulvia Montresor. “Black Bear and its fellow pioneers are leaders in using novel technologies to transform their industries. We see great potential for these next-generation companies to shape solutions to global challenges and improve society for years to come.

Black Bear and the other 56 early to growth-stage companies from around the world that have been selected as a Technology Pioneer now begin a two-year journey where they are part of the World Economic Forum’s initiatives, activities and events, aiming to bring cutting-edge insights and fresh thinking to critical global discussions.

The company is part-funded by the Eco-Innovation Initiative of the European Union. With backing from such an institution and with the support of the WEC, we are likely to see a huge increase in the number of tires being recycled into products we can use again in the coming years.

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