With piles of discarded tires mounting in dumps around the world and in their home country of South Africa, St. Johns College students Bradley Pieter Rautenbach and Sean Daly decided to take action. Old tires are an environmental hazard, explain the students. When tires pile up, they collect rainwater and become a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes. When fires occur, hazardous gases are released into the atmosphere. To address these issues, the students came up with a recycling plan that involves using rubber from discarded tires to create inexpensive roof tiles and mulch.
In designing the roof tiles, Rautenbach and Daly considered tile shape, positioning, and angle. Additionally, they tested fire preventative solutions on the rubber, eventually settling on a fire retardant that not only reduced flammability, but also strengthened the material. The result: a viable roofing option for people in need of affordable housing.
The team created mulch by shredding rubber tires for use as ground cover. The rubber mulch proved very effective at retaining soil moisture, a real advantage for rural South African farmers who may have to carry water long distances to tend their crops.
In the end, Rautenbach and Daly's research not only offers solutions for recycling tires and reducing environmental hazards, but may also make life a bit easier for others.