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Innovators mine black gold from waste tyres

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

Recycling of tyres is now common in Kenya, with innovative entrepreneurs making fancy furniture from the old wheels. Hillary Kitur and his partners, Stanley Kirui and Meshack Kirwa, have found a unique way of making use of old tyres.They are using tyres to make industrial diesel through their firm, Aqualine Distributors Ltd.

The company was initially contracted by Bamburi Cement in 2007 to deliver rice husk. After a while the contract was expanded to include waste tyres. “Everyday we used to collect 10 metric tonnes of tyres, meaning every month we had a supply capacity of 300 metric tonnes. Bamburi needed only 50 metric tonnes per day and we piled the rest waiting for another contract,” says Kitur.

Before long they had 1,000 metric tonnes of waste tyres they did not know where to take it. They decided to research on how to recycle them.

After doing a comprehensive research for one year and preparations for another year, in 2014 the trio presented their idea to turn the tyres into oil to The National Environment Trust Fund (Netfund), a state corporation under the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities, which facilitates research intended to further the requirements of environmental management, capacity building, environmental awards, environmental publications, scholarships and grants. They were awarded Sh500,000.

Together with their savings, they imported a pyrolysis machine (machine used to recycle tyres without polluting the environment) from China at a cost of Sh13 million and they were set to start their business.

“At first we didn’t know where we will be selling the product we made from recycling tyres, but we found a way to do it and today we have clients who are happily using our products,” he adds.

Since the raw material was readily available the business picked up well and they were forced to contract people from Machakos county, where the plant is based at Athi River, Mavoko constituency to collect raw material for them.

Currently, they have 15 collection points in Nairobi, Machakos and Kajiado. “We get most of our raw material from garage workers and different sizes attract different payments between Sh25 and Sh50 per tyre, but we also accept the products from individuals,” he says.

They make the industrial oil by cutting the tyres into small pieces using a machine and then loading them into the reactor where they are burned at a temperature of between 150 and 300 degrees for eight hours to separate steam, carbon black and steel wires.

The steam is then condensed to Industrial Diesel Oil (IDO). The petroleum oil produced is used as an alternative source of energy by manufacturing companies and the manufacturers of paint and shoe polish use carbon black powder.

The wires extracted are also recycled to make steel wires. The direct beneficiaries of this innovation are the waste tyre dealers who now have a ready market.

“At Aqualine distributors Ltd, we only concentrate on IDO and the rest we sell to other recyclers such as Bamburi Cement, who use the carbon black for energy and steel mills who use the steel wires to make construction material,” he adds.

Industrial Diesel Oil (IDO) is a blend of diesel and heavy fuel oil and is mainly used for heating, generating power and water/steam boilers in small industrial and hospitality applications. The main advantage of IDO is that it is cheaper than diesel.

“Our diesel goes for between Sh35 and Sh40 per litre. The demand is high and we produce about 25,000 litres per month. We hope to double this capacity soon,” he reveals.

Currently, the project is under incubation by Netfund and they want to expand to other counties so that they will not only keep the environment clean, but also create employment. The company employs 15 employees directly and more than 40 indirectly. Kitur urges the youth to embrace innovations to keep the environment clean.

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