Firm plans to turn tyres into fuel
A Foxton business turning rubbish into fuel is trying to change New Zealand attitudes towards waste disposal.
Newfuels has imported a new machine for its Foxton plant that, in a nutshell, could convert tyres and plastic bags into lowgrade fuel.
Managing director Leigh Ramsey said while it remained cheaper to throw rubbish like used tyres into a hole in the ground in New Zealand it was hard for a business model to remain consistently viable.
“If we keep putting it in the ground . . . there’s an end game there,” he said.
Mr Ramsey said the process was not new and was used overseas in massive volumes. It had been tried before in New Zealand, but as yet no-one was able to develop it into a successful business model.
“We’re setting this up as a demonstration site and business model that says ‘it can be done’,” he said.
The process involved breaking down a solid hydrocarbon, like a car tyre, into shorter carbon chains, where it formed a liquid.
He believed the secret was to tailor the technology to suit New Zealand needs, and also New Zealand as a country needed to change its attitude towards waste disposal.
Where it might cost around $150 per tonne to dispose of used tyres at present, the reality was that to dispose of the same amount through the conversion process, the cost could be “many times” that amount.
In New Zealand disposal costs were cheap compared with some European countries, where it could cost five times to dispose of the same amount of plastic or tyres.
His approach was based on introducing smaller systems rather than bigger systems that gobble up large volumes, a model he hoped would suit New Zealand with its relatively small centres.
“New Zealand is a country of small towns and relatively small cities,” he said.
The company was granted resource consent from Horizons Regional Council and the new machine was imported from Asia four months ago and was successfully installed and operated.
He said gaining resource consent was a big step towards sustainability.
“We believe the biggest type of stumbling block to this technology is having the expertise to work with authorities to get an approved resource consent,” he said.
To date the company was partly supported through a government grant, but the end game was to have a sustainable business model put in place.
Mr Ramsey was passionate about the new venture and looked upon used plastic bags and tyres as an untapped resource.
“One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure. Every time I see a pile of plastic I see a puddle of oil,” he said.
“It’s not a plastic bag’s fault that a human has let go of it. If we can recover hydrocarbon or oil from a single-use plastic bag then it has to be a good thing,” he said.
People needed to understand that if they wanted to stop exporting of New Zealand’s waste to other countries then it came at a cost.
“We have to pay a bit more to have it disposed of better,” he said.
He was excited about its potential to grow not only in New Zealand, but also in Pacific Island nations, and he was also working closely with the Solomon Islands.
“We think we’ve got problems,” he said.
Newfuels NZ managing director Leigh Ramsey with the new imported machine that he hopes will bring change to New Zealand attitudes towards waste.