Piles of tyres, fires blazing, thick smoke rising, are a far too common and disturbing sight in rubbish dumps in developing countries. Poor waste management infrastructure is partly to blame for the swindling of valuable resources, and the poisoning of air, water and earth around these dumps, through such a practice. But now, a low-tech solution can help stop all that: the Tycycler.
The practice of burning waste-tyres in order to extract the valuable steel bead wire that they contain, is a common practice across developing countries.Waste pickers, seeking a livelihood sifting through waste in unregulated and dangerous dump sites, set waste tyres alight, in order to remove their steel content, which can be traded to informal waste dealers.
In many African countries, waste management technology comes at too high a cost, and tends to be highly mechanised and complex, which makes it difficult for local communities to adopt. Simply letting the tyres pile-up in some dump causes serious public health and environmental issues: stagnating water gathers inside of them, providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other disease -carrying insects. And when burned, they release toxic plumes which pollute the air, as well as leech toxic materials which can contaminate soil and water aquifers. On top of that, valuable rubber is destroyed in the process, rubber which could be turned into something else.
Here's when the Tycycler comes into play: a non-motorised, low-tech, low-cost piece of equipment which “can extract the steel bead wire from up to 150 waste tyres per day, producing between 180 and 200 kilograms of high quality steel bead wire”.
The device is essentially a manually operated hydraulic jack, which, according to its creators, can help sequester up to four tonnes of carbon emissions a day, and creates two full-time jobs.
Easy to carry, its clean, low-tech, low-cost features, together with its ease of use, make the Tycycler accessible to resource-constrained informal waste workers, enabling them to recover steel and rubber from tyres safely and more productively.
Much like in the recovery of other waste streams - such as e-waste, or plastic waste - in developing countries, it is the informal waste pickers who - although cut out from the more intensive, complex and expensive recycling technologies that are generally available in the bigger cities – still provide a valuable public health and environmental service, often to the detriment of their own health. Such a device has therefore massive scaling-up opportunities within the informal sector, with positive ripple-on effects on workers, their families and communities.
The Tycycler, which is also a finalist of the latest Climate CoLab contest, has been developed in Nigeria, by Joshua Palfreman , Benneth Obasiohia, and Chris Whyte, and it is currently available in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.