More friendly rubber
Not many people will now about the rubber being used in washable mats and the problems. Mat manufacturers who have their own rubber formula keep this as a secret and will give you very little information.
Around 18 years ago Bob Ballings started development of rubber formula’s for industrial washable mats, by testing, testing and doing all the small secrets (and more) became known to him.
Rubbers use plasticizers to make the rubber flexible. Some manufacturers are still using phthalate based plasticizers. These types are on list to cause cancer. when washed they become part of the waste water. As a laundry you should demand that your supplier stops using these plasticizers. More info can also be found in this article.
In order to cure rubber, rubber accelerators are used. Some of these, especially the Thiuram based are know to create nitrosamines when the rubber is cured. Again a substance to cause cancer. We suspect that some manufacturers are still using these accelerators to cure rubber. Like phthalate based plasticizers the use of nitrosamine causing accelerators should be stopped.
All rubber mats, but also car and truck tires use zinc oxide. Zinc oxide is needed to cure the rubber and give the rubber properties. during vulcanisation a part of the zinc oxide is used but a large portion will remain active in the rubber. When mats are washed small portions of zinc oxide will leach out into the waste water. In some countries laundries have to filter their waste water using expensive chemicals that also need to de disposed. This article will give you more information.
The black in the rubber is created by carbon black. Carbon black is made by burning oil. Carbon black is important for rubber as it gives rubber certain properties. At the same time lots of co2 is needed to create black. so when looking at the products carbon footprint, when standing on a mat around 30% of the rubber weight is actual carbon made by burning oil.
Phthalate based plasticizers can and should be replaced by Phthalate free plasticizers. 2023 there is also the option to use a bio based plasticizer. This bio based material will be more expensive, making the mat more expensive but more friendly.
Nitrosamines can be prevented by using alternative accelerators which do not create nitrosamines when cured.
We have been working with a company that has a patent on a zinc oxide free cure system. This will enable us to offer a 100% zinc oxide free rubber. No zinc oxide will leach into the waste water. When all mats have been replaced there will be no need to filter (expensive) waste water for zinc oxide.
Given the way mats are currelty washed there are no more improvements we can make to make the rubber more eco friendly. Using recycled content like devulcanised rubber, rubber crumb, recovered carbon black will only make the rubber weaker, lifetime will go down and this is unwanted.
When switching to a different way of clean mats, using a flatbed washer many more modifications to the rubber will be possible. when washed flat rubber can have a lower quality and there is far less mechanical action compared to current way of washing mats. This means that we can be looking at adding far more recycled content into newly made rubber backed mats.
We could also be looking at using rubber for recycled mats, when we will be able to separate yarn and rubber. There are some, non public, project we are working on to test the impact of recycled content on the rubber formula. One should know that 60-70% of a mats weight is rubber so using recycled content would make washable mats far more sustainable than they are now. Fully circular might still be a step to far, but we aim at using 50% recycled content in the rubber in future, when washed flat.
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