RUBBER particles from old tyres, conveyor belts and linatex rubber generated from the operations of Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) are being re-used in a method known as upcycling.

Normal recycling methods degrade the quality of a product before it is re-used – meaning plastic bottles, for example, cannot be recycled as plastic containers for consumption, but become carpets or toys.

Upcycling does not degrade the quality of the material to be recycled, meaning that resources can be used back up the supply chain.

In an announcement, OTML said it had exported 247.7 tonnes of rubber crumb to Australian company A1 Rubber, as at April this year.

The crumb, made by shredding tyre rubber to create differently sized granules, is then re-used to manufacture new products including commercial, gymnasium, playground and sports ground flooring, as well as adhesives and sealants, general matting and noise reduction.

On its webpage, A1 said over 70 per cent of its manufactured products contain tyre rubber that was source from tyre crumbers and re-treaders across Australia – leading it to collect and re-use over 17,000 cubic metres of crumbed tyre rubber every year.

OTML superintendent of waste treatment and disposal Hendrick Min said OTML expected to produce 720 tonnes of rubber crumb in 2015.

“We are capable of producing 5.7 to 7.6 tonnes a day if we have more buyers. We only have one buyer at the moment, so we are producing at this current level,” Mr Min said.

“Our ultimate aim is to reduce OTML’s footprint and that has been our driving force,” he said.

Mr Min added that OTML has about three to four years’ stock of old tyres, which it said was significant enough to meet additional demands for rubber crumb.

In 2013, OTML commissioned a rubber recycling plant in Tabubil as part of its waste management strategy to recycle old conveyor belts, and tyres from its mine haul trucks and other vehicles.