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Tire Recycling Among First Projects
of Environmental Tech Collaboration

Many useful elements go into making a tire. Then we ride on it for 40,000 miles or so and try to find some place to hide what's left. Hundreds of thousands of these worn out tires accumulate each month, causing problems for cities and wasting landfill space, not to mention those valuable components.

Solving the problem of how to best recycle worn out tires is not its only goal, but is one of the first projects of an unique consortium of educational and industrial institutions that will receive almost $1 million in funding this year from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Environmental Technology Development and Commercialization Center was founded in Texas City by Sam Houston State University's Institute for Innovative Collaborative Programs and Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies.

The center's goal is to become the first international clearinghouse for the certification and commercialization of emerging innovative environmental technologies.

Founding partners also include the city of Texas City, Sterling Chemicals, Inc., Environeering, Inc., and the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC). The center's Industrial Advisory Board includes representatives from the Amoco Corporation, Occidental Chemical Corporation, Solutia Inc., Sterling Chemicals, Inc., Union Carbide Corporation and Valero Energy Corporation.

Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and Phil Gramm and Representatives Kevin Brady, Nick Lampson and Jim Turner led the effort to obtain start-up funding for the center. Texas City mayor Chuck Doyle was praised by SHSU officials for his helpfulness.

Dr. John L. Margraves, E. D. Butcher Professor of Chemistry at Rice University, is heading the tire recycling project. He said that several meetings have been held with officials from the city of Houston, and he expects "many communities" to be interested in any solutions that may be developed.

"Hundreds of thousands of these tires are accumulating each month," Margraves said. "We have an old tire disposal system, but it doesn't work very well. About all we're doing now is putting them in landfills."

Margraves believes a high-temperature recovery process can produce useful gaseous products as well as iron and other metals from the steel belts. Carbon monoxide and hydrogen could be burned to make electricity or converted to methanol or other chemicals.

"It would be much better to get rid of the tires once and for all and convert them to useful products," he said. Margraves is HARC's chief scientific officer and also serves as chair of the center's Technology Review Committee.

Gordon Plishker, director of Sam Houston State's Institute for Innovative Collaborative Programs, said that the center's uniqueness is that it will provide a process for validation and commercialization of new technologies based on objective, unbiased, scientifically-based analyses.

Once a particular technology is demonstrated and validated, its commercialization will be facilitated by the Industrial Partners Program. Partners will be given first crack at applying the technology and being able to share in profits from technology licensing agreements.

Under the present approach to solving environmental problems, individual companies seek solutions to individual problems, often with little or no involvement from the EPA or other environmental agencies except when problems arise.

"The center will perform unbiased tests and recommend the best solutions," Plishker said. "Our partners will ensure that environmental requirements are being met, and we can then provide a solid recommendation to private sector users and direct the eventual commercialization."


Media Contacts:John Margraves: 713-527-4813; Gordon Plishker: 409-294-3692
Public Relations Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Sept. 16, 1998
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