This year South Devon company Bandvulc is marking its 50th anniversary. It was established in 1971 when the import of rubber from Malaysia began and the retreading of tyres started, turning out around 30 a week. Today they are Britain’s biggest commercial retread tyre company, producing a tyre every 2.5 minutes, from their facility in Lee Mill, near Ivybridge.
Acquired by the Continental Tyre Group in 2016, Bandvulc are market leaders because they continually develop more and more advanced products which respond to customers’ needs with in-house facilities.
“We find out what our customer needs from a tyre and we can engineer it to suit their needs,” explains Rubber Technician Peter Pritchard. “They might want a tyre for vehicles used for waste collection from rural or urban areas, or for supermarket trucks which will travel mainly on motorways. Waste or tipper truck tyres need to be really hard-working. We can engineer the tyres for different applications – we have the ability here to create a bespoke product.”
“Rubber is a natural product – you tap it from trees all over the world – and we process it for qualities and properties. We then mix it with synthetic elements. In domestic cars tyres that would be mainly man-made but with a truck you need more natural rubber because it has to be very durable. These vehicles might need to go on building sites which are uneven with lots of debris. They need to be tough and resistant. Car tyres, by comparison, are very low impact.
“We have our own on-site mixing facility where we can work with suppliers bringing us new types of oils, or polymers. We can do trials in the lab to start with and then move on to processing and field trials at our own test sites. Having our lab literally a mile away from the main factory is unique for a small business. We get great support from Continental’s German research and development teams, but it’s a two-way process and we share a lot of information,” says Peter.
The company, which started recycling tyres before it became a buzzword, have the environment at the heart of everything they do. “If there was no impact on the environment, we would never make a retread tyre, we would just throw the old worn tyres away. But the essence of what we are doing is stopping tyres going to landfill,” says Justin Holloway, Quality and Environmental Manager.
“It was unusual when the company started to be retreading tyres – I think it saved some pounds and pence and the benefit to the environment was almost accidental. Today we look at different ways of doing things to reduce our environmental impact, for example; each time a truck tyre is retreaded it saves 30kg of rubber, 20kgs of steel and 68 litres of oil.
“We are quite proud of the fact that nothing goes into landfill from here. We work with a local contractor in Exeter who have a zero to landfill policy – everything is completely recycled or incinerated. For us, about 70 per cent of our waste is recyclable.
And customers appreciate the efforts too. “We get great feedback from customers,” says Justin. “We send them a detailed list of how much carbon has been saved by buying a retread instead of a new tyre, how much oil and fuel has been saved. We can retread a tyre two times, or three if it’s been well looked after. That’s a positive message.”
”We mark our 50th anniversary with many employees able to count their association with the company in decades rather than years”, says Tony Mailling, Operations Director.
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Peter Pritchard thinks he has the best job in the world. He’s a Rubber Technician. He joined Bandvulc, Britain’s largest commercial tyre retreader, in 1992 as a laboratory technician at the company’s headquarters at Lee Mill, near Ivybridge. “I was working in quality control and I was just fascinated,” he says. “I was mainly self-taught…More +
The tyre industry doesn’t seem like an obvious place to start when you are looking for examples of environmental good practice. But South Devon company Bandvulc has green policies at the heart of everything it does. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Britain’s largest commercial tyre retreader which was established in 1971, now a…More +