Rubber tyres bounce back in highway construction

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 May, 2001, 12:00am

Discarded tyres will be hitting Hong Kong roads again under a locally developed scheme to pave highways with recycled rubber.

Scientists are working with officials to test the scheme on local roads in September, with commercial use scheduled for next year.

Dr Lee Kin-man of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology said that in addition to providing a versatile paving material, the scheme devised by his researchers was aimed at reducing pollution.

'We will work with the Highway Department and select a highway for the pilot scheme,' he said. 'If it proves successful, we may see all scrap tyres that would otherwise pollute the environment turned into 'rubber soil' for road work.'

The technology involves shredding tyres into rubber grains. The grains are mixed with construction materials such as cement to form a light surface that can be used for land reclamation, road widening and slope retention.

Dr Lee said the rubber material would significantly reduce land and air pollution caused by the dumping and burning of scrap tyres and would be developed into a commercial product early next year.

The material is permeable and will prevent accumulation of underground water that could otherwise trigger landslides.

About 1.5 million tyres are discarded in Hong Kong annually. Burning them produces toxic materials such as cancer-causing dioxin.