Old car tires drive sustainable battery production

STORY: Across the globe, about 32 million tons of tires reach the end of their life each year.

That's enough to entirely cover Washington, D.C.

And the shift to electric vehicles, made heavier by their batteries, is only expected to increase that number.

One Chilean start-up says its process could help solve the problem.

The company is called T-Phite, part of the privately funded Sustrend Laboratory.

Its solution to the annual problem of what to do with more than a billion end-of-life tires?

Recycle them into modern electric car batteries.

Their process involves refining 'carbon black' – recovered from the tires by pyrolysis – into battery-grade graphitic hard carbon, an essential component in the anode of lithium-ion batteries.

Bernardita Diaz is T-Phite's CEO and co-founder.

"Our process is innovative, mainly because we solve two problems. One is the final disposal of tires and the second is the demand that is being generated for electromobility materials. And when you obtain materials from other waste, you are generating what is known as the circular economy."

Despite rising global rates of recycling in recent years, hundreds of millions of end-of-life tires that are scrapped each year end up in landfills or in stockpiles.

That's according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

T-Phite says it has received significant interest from potential investors looking to scale up the process to an industrial level.