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Increasing opportunities for circular rubber products

Alongside collecting end-of-life tyres, Granuband is becoming better and better known for the large number of products the company makes with the recycled rubber, under the brand name Granuflex. The development and production of these products has really taken off. “We already had an impressive product offering, but now we are increasingly becoming a specialist producer in the area of circular rubber products,” insists Granuband’s Sales & Marketing Manager, Edwin Kuiper.

Over the years, the product range of the company, which is based in the western port area of Amsterdam, has grown exponentially. Granuband has long been celebrated for its rubber tiles, which are used in applications that include playgrounds, roofs, stables, fitness floors and shooting ranges. Additionally, for some time now the company has been using rubber granulate in artificial grass pitches, e-layers (athletic tracks), sports underlayment, playground surfaces, rail blocks, bitumen roofing materials and container wheels, as well as many other products.

Reusing 80 per cent

“Our ambition is to reuse 80 per cent of all the rubber from our recycling activities into ‘associated’ products by 2024,” insists Kuiper. “In other words, not just used in the form of the granulate that we use ourselves and supply to our customers, but in real applications and products. Focusing more and more on the development of end products is a path we started treading two years ago. This market is growing and we have identified opportunities that accompany this growth.”

During the recent lockdowns in the Netherlands, for example, Granuband capitalised on a trend that saw more and more fitness-centre afficionados installing fitness facilities at home. “Our floor tiles are perfect for this and we also developed several other products to specifically meet the needs of this new growth market. We were able to sell these products through specialist channels serving the home fitness market, including through online channels. This is an excellent example of a market application that meets a new need, both in the Netherlands and in other EU countries.”

More interest in sustainable materials

Granuband has also identified increasing interest in the use of a more sustainable raw material. “This is an indisputable development, with more and more producers of rubber products wanting to use recycled rubber in their production processes. It often starts on a modest scale and the motivation to do so can vary greatly. While one producer might want to follow the path of circularity, marketing motives might inspire another to go green. Let’s face it, a product will enjoy more market opportunities if its manufacturer can claim that recycled rubber has been used in its production.”

It’s an unmistakable trend, says Kuiper. “We have customers who make rubber wheels, roofing and all kinds of other product applications. They are just beginning to discover the possibilities. As far as we are concerned, our objective is to recycle the maximum amount of material in the market to the highest-possible level of quality. This, of course, makes our own production process very important. Recycling is our business, and the commercial potential is directly proportional to the level of quality because it elevates the profit margin! These product applications represent an extremely viable business case!”

Ramping up production

In 2022, Granuband will ramp up its own production by investing significantly in three new machines to make floor tiles. “We will also launch a new product: bumper plates, the round rubber weights that weightlifters use. These bumper plates are in fact rubber discs into which extra-heavy filler material has been incorporated. They are a very promising new product that can be used both indoors and outdoors and we have great expectations for them.”

It’s an ambitious goal: using 80 per cent of the recycled rubber for real products. Kuiper: “We still have a lot of hard work to do though, because the needle is currently just nudging the 45 per cent mark, with the remainder still as loose material in bulk.”

Better grip on quality

There is no doubt that Granuband has undergone a major transition these past few years. “From being a large collector of end-of-life tyres that also does its own processing and recycling, we have blossomed into a producer that also does its own collecting. That last bit is important by the way: having our own network of some 1,200 collection points gives us a much better overview and grip on quality. Insight and control over the flow is crucial if, in addition to recycling used tyres, you also process them in your own factory.”

This then is the company’s new proposition, one that will be further developed in 2022: namely, as the producer of high-quality, circular rubber products. “And it’s something we want to shout from those Granuflex-clad rooftops,” insists Kuiper. “Our new website, www.granuband.com, will be up-and-running in December 2021 and we intend to explore all possible avenues to ensure that the market gets even better acquainted with Granuband.”

Source: RecyBEM.

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