A rubberised archetype: Molectra Technologies

Waste Management Review speaks with Molectra Technologies’ John Dobozy about his unique approach to tyre recycling and the development of several niche products for wide ranging customers and markets. 

While innovation and new technologies abound in the waste and resource recovery sector, in the age of regulation, trials and collaborative research, the Jungian artist scientist archetype is rarely discussed.

Distracted by thought, impulsive yet cautious, the artist-scientist functions as a source of change. While like all archetypes, the artist-scientist is an abstraction of real life, John Dobozy is an Innovation Architect who founded Molectra Technologies.

Established as a private company in Queensland in 2000, Molectra’s unique processing technology transforms discarded tyres into their component parts.

While end-of-life tyres is a common term across the resource recovery industry, John believes the sector should rethink it. He explains that conceptually, the term suggests there is no value in used materials – making it easier to throw them away and pollute the environment.

Molectra’s technology extracts high quality resources from tyres: uncontaminated rubber; high tensile wires and useful fibres stronger than steel.

Molectra also uses a unique (not a standard burning/pyrolysis tyre processor) microwave processor to distil jet fuel-diesellubeoil from decontaminated ground rubber, which powers the recycling and manufacturing process of Molectra.

“The residual carbon is 97.4 per cent pure and can be crushed to form carbon black, which is used to manufacture new tyres, plastics, paints, inks and batteries,” Dobozy says.

“Alternatively, the carbon can be converted into activated carbon for water purification, gold extraction and air filtration.”

Another clever development is to fuse fertilisers and soil microbes into the char. This process activates the inert char turning it into Biochar or what Dobozy coined CarbonEater Fertiliser.

“This product locks up fertilisers within the soil, preventing washout into waterways and polluting the Great Barrier Reef. The greatest ecological and social benefit is replenishment of carbon poor soils and increased food production capacities of Australian soils,” he says.

The creation of the technologies originates back to the late 1970’s, when Dobozy first discussed the discarding problem of tyres and suggested recycling solutions to local tyre companies.

Due to the early rejections, Dobozy says he became impassioned, developing novel machines and pristine clean rubber powders.

“Despite these early achievements, recycling was shunned by industry and the population in general. The watershed realisation came when excellent quality rubber was rejected by tyre companies in Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Canada, United States and even in Italy and Germany,” he explains.

“What needed to be done was, not just developing an integrated recycling system, but to innovate processes to manufacture other rubber-based products (besides tyres).”

Molectra developed a series of machines and a technique to process the tyres that extracted rubber in a fine powder format, which is quite unique.

“It was found that the fine rubber has not yet seen properties. Examining the rubber at molecular level, it was noted that the molecular structure of the rubber was not damaged during the Molectra designed recycling processes,” Dobozy says.

“Typically, granulated rubber was mixed with adhesives to form it into a useful product. That is too expensive for fine powders as the uptake of adhesive is excessive and subsequently cost more. Other methods had to be tried to make a product from powdered rubber.

“Molectra has perfected a bonding mechanism at molecular level (no glue required). Besides these solvent based glues pose hidden health issues.

“This is the way we have coined the name of the company MOLECularTRAnsformation.”

Molectra has since developed a three-part process to extract up to 13 base commodities from each tyre, Dobozy says. He adds that the process comprises mechanical, chemical and microwave treatments.

As all these base products are uncontaminated, Dobozy explains, and are suitable to replace virgin raw materials at a fraction of the cost, when using them to produce new products.

The most important thing in recycling is to produce high quality marketable products with competitive pricing. Independent testing has been conducted on all of the Molectra products by universities, rubber/carbon/oil laboratories, Bridgestone Rubber of Japan and USA, Allied Rubber and others.

According to Dobozy, the cost and environmental efficiency of Molectra’s technology is key, with its processes designed to lower the cost of tyre processing and VAP manufacturing.

“Molectra is marketing integrated tyre recycling and Value-Added-Products (VAP) Manufacturing plants,” he says.

The capacities can be 2-10 tonnes of processed tyres per hour.

These plants include all the mechanical and microwave processing equipment, together with production machines for in-house manufacturing of the selected VAP.

The products include various ground rubber; rubber products (selection of 56); masterbatch rubber compounds; diesel/oil for energy; CarbonEater Fertiliser; bitumen (derived from rubber and waste plastic); and many others.

“Importantly, due to the built-in flexibility of the Molectra technology, these commodities/products can be manufactured in various ratios according to the market demand for each,” Dobozy says.

Molectra’s Turn-Key-Plants are tailored to meet the requirements of their clients under a licence/royalty agreement, whereby the company will design-supply-commission each plant, providing training, technical support and long-term maintenance/spare parts service as well to clients in Australia and abroad.

In several geographical areas of Australia, the plants will be supported by already operating distribution agencies, currently serviced by the small capacity plant in Queensland.

According to Dobozy, the cost and environmental efficiency of Molectra’s technology is key, with its processes designed to lower the cost of tyre processing.

“The art of recycling is to emulate nature’s process of recreating useful compounds from the resources of planet earth,” he says.

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