An upgrade to larger, heavier and faster trains can result in significant construction and maintenance costs to the rail infrastructure. Now a solution may be found through the use of new materials, made largely of old tyres, which will help to improve the performance and reduce cost of the tracks. That is the objective behind a research project by the University of Wollongong, in conjunction with industry partner Ecoflex, recently funded by Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) and the New South Wales Environmental Trust as part of the NSW EPA’s Waste Less, Recycle More initiative funded from the waste levy.
A new Rubber based Energy Absorbing Layer (REAL) is being studied as an environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional compacted gravel capping layer for new tracks. The study will look at the opportunity for this material to be used to improve track stability and therefore operational efficiency.
The research project is expected to yield information that could help develop a valuable domestic market for recycled end-of-life tyre material. The University of Wollongong research team, led by Professor Buddhima Indraratna, expects to deliver research results by August 2017 and is working closely with railway engineers who are responsible for rolling-out, maintaining and upgrading this vital infrastructure.
Such projects demonstrate the important role of Tyre Stewardship Australia in supporting tyre industry environmental sustainability, with this particular project also offering broader economic benefits through the potential to reduce track maintenance costs and improve productivity.
TSA continues to gain momentum, not only in establishing an industry accreditation program for the sustainable management of end-of-life tyres, but also in employing its financial resources to fund research projects that will help develop more viable long–term markets for recycled tyre feedstock. TSA will, in the near future, announce a number of projects either funded through its recent competitive round of funding applications, or cooperatively negotiated with universities, state and federal entities.
The first round of competitive applications closed at the end of 2015 and sought submissions for the allocation of up to $1.6 Million in research grants with a focus on developing domestic markets for recycled tyre material. Further funding rounds will be announced during the course of 2016.