The most infamous use of tyres in parts of Africa has been “the necklace”, used to punish apartheid informers in South Africa. The tactic was not confined to South Africa, but thankfully it has become a memory and Africans are looking at more constructive uses for end of life tyres.
South African Students Develop Car Tyre Polish from Char
Social entrepreneur Mzokhona Maxase and his business partner Tshepo Sithole, who founded a small business called Cubic 38, have found an alternative use for the tyres.
They were both students at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Pretoria two years ago when they established Cubic 38, which manufactures a car tyre “shoe” polish from a product extracted from recycled tyres and processed rubber called char.
"It was by chance that we met the owners of a tyre recycling plant in Pretoria West. They didn't know what to do with the char after extracting oil and steel wire from the recycled tyres," says Maxase. "Even though we are not science students, we wanted to enter and play in the green economy."
Maxase, 24, from Hluhluwe in northern KwaZulu-Natal, is a logistics BTech graduate and Sithole, 25, from Wattville in Ekurhuleni, is doing his last year of a diploma in sports management.
Maxase says they wanted to use the char to create high quality and affordable products for daily use. There are a number of plants extracting oil and steel from tyres in the country and according to Maxase, they are all stuck with the waste char.
"The guys at the Pretoria West plant gave us 500g to test at the university laboratory. We didn't have a clue of its properties and what it was. We had one idea in mind - that in our rural villages candle wax is turned into polish by melting it and adding paraffin.
"With the help of one of the chemistry professors, we did our research. He guided us as we were working from a small garage at the TUT property.
"Why not car tyre and shoe polish, we asked ourselves. We developed this idea to return the char tyre waste back to tyres in the form of polish.
"We now jokingly call it a product from the tyre for the tyres."
Maxase says though the polish is at the prototype stage, they have found a market after tests were conducted at the university's TIA technology station in chemicals in Ga-Rankuwa.
He says they aim to go into full-scale production in September.