From Tires to Tiles: An Inventor's Tale in Argentina
A team of inventors are recycling old tires and plastic waste to create environmentally friendly roof tiles.
By the age of six, María Paz Sanchez Amono had already found her inventor's instinct. She passed many hours with her grandfather, Orlando Amono, who built his own house as well as a business: a shoe shop where young Maria lent a hand and used boxes to make her own toys.
Later, at the Universidad Católica de Córdoba, her toys had evolved into model buildings, with her grandfather, now deceased, in the apprentice role. “I am sure he is still watching over me and guiding me on this path,” says Ms. Sanchez Amono.
Ms. Sanchez Amono, now aged 36, is working to create new building materials that last longer as well as reduce waste.
She is part of a team supported by the Centro Experimental de la Vivienda Económica (CEVE) – an experimental center for affordable housing in Córdoba, Argentina – and El Centro de Investigación, Desarrollo y Transferencia de Materiales y Calidad (CINTEMAC), that has developed a new type of roof tile to replace the traditional ceramic tile used on buildings all over the world.
In Argentina, 150,000 tons of end-of-life tires and 750,000 tons of plastic are discarded each year, causing environmental and waste-management problems.
Tires are highly durable and non-biodegradable, making managing and recycling them a challenge. These same qualities, however, make her team's roof tile such a special product, says Ms. Sanchez Amono.
The recycled tiles are lighter than ceramic and, due to the elastic qualities of rubber, are not prone to breakage during transport and installation. The tiles have also been found to have lower thermal conductivity than ceramic tiles – contributing to lower energy consumption due to heat management, Ms. Sanchez Amono says.
The team from CEVE and CINTEMAC has registered its patent for roof tiles made out of recycled material at Argentina's National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI).
The team, which is interested in technology transfer, plans to share the tiles' manufacturing process with non-governmental organizations, municipalities and affordable housing programs.
Ms. Sanchez Amono says the intellectual property system promotes this kind of sharing by providing clarity of ownership. “The patent provides us with intellectual property protection and keeps other people from claiming it as their invention. If they do that then we would be prevented from sharing this with other institutions.”
Ultimately, Ms. Sanchez Amono sees her inventive activities not as an end in themselves but as part of a larger passion aimed at cutting pollution and promoting recycling, particularly among kids. “It is very gratifying for me to see how children start to become aware of environmental care and how they learn to recycle,” she says.