From Trash to Tires: When Food Waste Hits the Road

According to the USDA, Americans consume nearly 100 billion eggs each year. Half are cracked open in commercial food factories, which pay to have the shells hauled to landfills by the ton. There, the mineral-packed shells don’t break down. The second most popular vegetable in the United States – the tomato – also provides a source of filler, the researchers found. Americans eat 13 million tons of tomatoes per year, most of them canned or otherwise processed.

Commercial tomatoes have been bred to grow thick, fibrous skins so that they can survive being packed and transported long distances. When food companies want to make a product such as tomato sauce, they peel and discard the skin, which isn’t easily digestible.

Researchers at The Ohio State University have discovered that food waste can partially replace the petroleum-based filler that has been used in manufacturing tires for more than a century.

In tests, rubber made with the new fillers exceeds industrial standards for performance, which may ultimately open up new applications for rubber. The technology has the potential to solve three problems: It makes the manufacture of rubber products more sustainable, reduces American dependence on foreign oil and keeps waste out of landfills.