Tomato skins and eggshells can be used to make tires, researchers find

Food waste is a major problem throughout the world, and people need to keep coming up with ways to reduce it or use it. At the same time, petroleum use continues to grow and keeps people dependent on foreign sources of oil. Fortunately, Dr. Katrina Cornish, an Ohio Research Scholar and Endowed Chair in Biomaterials at Ohio State, may have hit upon a way to solve both problems: make tires using eggshells and tomato peels as filler. Tires are currently made with 30 percent carbon black, which makes the tires appear black and also has to be sourced overseas. Making tires out of locally available fillers and materials not only reduces petroleum use, but also reduces emissions associated with shipping the material to US tire manufacturers.

According to Cornish, “The tire industry is growing very quickly, and we don’t just need more natural rubber, we need more filler, too,” she explained. “The number of tires being produced worldwide is going up all the time, so countries are using all the carbon black they can make. There’s no longer a surplus, so we can’t just buy some from Russia to make up the difference like we used to.”

Her team has found that eggshells don’t break down in landfills, and commercial tomatoes have thick skins, which are often discarded when the tomatoes are used to make tomato sauce and the like. Their various properties help rubber become more flexible as well.

The tires produced with eggshells and tomato skins tend to have a reddish brown color, but her team is continuing to explore ways to make the tires appear black.

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