LanzaTech and Sumitomo Riko team up to recycle rubber and resin

They intend to produce a key chemical intermediate, isoprene, which is produced by plants – and along with polymers – is the main component of natural rubber

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LanzaTech and Sumitomo Riko Company have joined forces to reuse rubber, resin and polyurethane waste for the production of a key chemical intermediate, isoprene.

Isoprene is produced by plants – and along with polymers – is the main component of natural rubber, which is widely regarded as more eco-friendly than synthetic rubber from virgin fossil inputs.

However, without strong sustainability certification and audits, the impact of harvesting natural rubber from trees has been linked to deforestation, biodiversity loss and soil erosion, the companies state.

Using synthetic biology for the production of isoprene, LanzaTech’s nature-based platform is said to have the potential to produce a new sustainable source of rubber through recycling, without losing any material integrity.

Around 46,000 tons of natural and synthetic rubber are used in Sumitomo Riko’s rubber products annually, making rubber one of its most important raw materials.

A large amount of rubber waste is also produced from the burr and end materials generated from the manufacturing process and used automobile parts.

Kazushi Shimizu, President & CEO of Sumitomo Riko Company Limited said: “As we aim to be a sustainable company, we see a vast potential to recycle and reuse our waste materials.

“Approximately 46,000 tons of natural and synthetic rubber are used in our leading rubber products annually, making rubber one of our most important raw materials. A large amount of rubber waste is also produced from the manufacturing process as well as extracted from used automobile parts. Our joint development with LanzaTech aims to recycle rubber waste directly into a substitute for natural rubber.”

The two companies aim to create a sustainable supply chain that enables circularity as well as “keeps our forests and planet healthy”.

Jennifer Holmgren, Chief Executive Officer, LanzaTech added: “This exciting partnership with Sumitomo represents an opportunity to make a significant positive impact on the production of rubber.

“Thanks to increasing demand across multiple sectors, including medical and automotive, the global isoprene market is projected to be worth around US$4 billion [£3.3bn] by 2025. We need new sustainable pathways for the production of rubber, to avoid any impact on land and biodiversity. To be able to make isoprene directly from waste rubber and other waste resources is truly groundbreaking, will keep fossil carbon in the ground and will enable domestic, sustainable production of this key raw material around the world.”