Using Food Waste as a Sustainable Rubber Filler

Katrina Cornish, Ohio Research Scholar and Professor of Horticulture and Crop Sciences and Food, Agriculture and Biological Engineering, Cornish’s lab at Ohio State’s Wooster campus designs natural rubber alternatives using crops of guayule and Buckeye Gold dandelion, combined with eggshells and tomato peels.

Cornish Barrera

Professor Katrina Cornish with Postdoctoral Researcher Cindy Barrera in the group’s research facility

Through the Program of Excellence in Natural Rubber Alternatives (PENRA) research facility, Cornish’s research group found that partially replacing carbon black with ground eggshells or tomato peels in rubber enhanced its overall strength, elasticity and softness. Both materials offer practical advantages in tire manufacture. Tomato skins offer high-temperature stability, while the porousness of eggshells enable it to bond well with rubber. Additional testing led the researchers to widen their applications of these alternatives beyond tires to other rubber products such as gaskets, hoses and rubber gloves.

Researchers from The Ohio State University have developed a patent-pending, greener—or, more accurately, reddish-brown—alternative to the carbon black filler used in tires.

Natural rubber is a vital resource for any developed country and is used in over 40,000 commercial products. By 2020 the USA may suffer a supply shortfall of 1.5 million metric tons of imported natural rubber. While the use of synthetic rubber has surpassed natural rubber in quantity, there are particular properties and high-performance applications that make natural rubber irreplaceable by synthetic rubber.

As carbon black supply dwindles, eggshells and tomato skins abound. America alone consumes almost 100 billion eggs and 13 million tons of tomatoes annually, with their shells and skins going to landfills. Cornish expects the food factories that dispose of these items to become the go-to source for new filler material.

Cornish explains that the technology has the potential to address three problems: allow more sustainable tire manufacturing process, reduce the tire industry’s dependence on foreign oil, and keep waste out of landfills.


Cornish’s research has been covered by several national media this month, which served as sources for this article:

Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/making-tire-filler-from-eggshells-1489093113

US News & World Report: https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2017-03-09/incorporating-food-waste-into-tires-may-sustain-industry-long-term

How Stuff Works: http://now.howstuffworks.com/2017/03/10/food-waste-wheels-researchers-turn-tomatoes-tires

Yahoo! News: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/tires-made-eggshells-tomato-skins-081804297.html

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