According to 2016 estimates from the Columbian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, it is estimated that 5,300,000 used tires are discarded into landfills each year. The prevalence of recycling used tires is very low, spotlighting a severe environmental issue. Until passing recent sustainability initiatives, no formal mechanism enabled support for gathering, reprocessing, and reusing the raw materials (i.e., rubber) from used tires. Through the enactment of Resolution 1326 of 2017 (Selective Collection and Environmental Management Systems of Used Tires), the Columbian government committed to solving this problem. By providing funding to incentivize increasingly ambitious recycling targets, the government aims for an 80% recycling rate by 2025 of used tires from motor vehicles, commercial trucks, bicycles, and recreational equipment.
Despite the incentive, the looming question remained: "What to do with all of these recycled tires?" SateLite solves this problem by shredding recycled tires into rubber granules and using the reclaimed material to build safer playgrounds, playing fields, and pedestrian walkways.
Universidad Externado de Colombia
Gustavo A Yepes López
Solely within the city of Valledupar, capital of the Cesar Department, there are 22 separate tire cemeteries. SateLite Servicios Integrados is the first company in the region seeking to mitigate this environmental issue by spearheading a novel sustainability initiative. The critical innovation -- finding a useful second life for recycled tires, reducing the carbon footprint of a manufacturing process that requires considerable energy and petroleum. The result has reshaped stakeholders' views on tire disposal from a cradle-to-grave toward a cradle-to-cradle positive impact model.
SateLite shreds recycled tires into rubber granules to build playground foundations and synthetic sports fields. For municipal markets, it uses the granules to create sidewalk tiles, pavers, and pedestrian walkways. They also innovate through pigmentation of granules, allowing for nearly unlimited colors and inlaid graphical elements in their designs. SateLite transforms dreary residue into a new material that is full of life, used in public environments that allow for recreation and enjoyment.
SateLite continues to innovate by identifying new market opportunities for recycled rubber granules. Founder Fernando Orozco states, "through a partnership with Fundación Universitaria del Área Andina, we are working on a product for the waterproofing of cracks and roofs. We also seek additional uses to repair asphalt pavement."
Fernando Orozco is the founder and visionary behind SateLite. He continues to steer the direction of this young company as it seeks increasingly novel solutions to the problem of used tire disposal. He is an architect by training and relishes the challenge of mitigating this environmental issue. Repurposing shredded tires speaks to his architectural background, allowing him to be creative with a medium having a broad diversity of applicable uses. He credits this passion to the values instilled by his parents -- values that inspire him to generate a benefit for the community.
Orozco describes his primary motivations for starting the company. "Environmental issues have always concerned me. What motivated me the most was the immediate need to address this problem. It takes between 120 and 150 years for tires to degrade and decompose fully. I wanted to develop alternative uses for the rubber...to see the impact it would have on people's health. I was also motivated to find ways of generating new employment, especially in areas of absolute poverty, including regions adjacent to mining villages."
The main impact of SateLite derives from its collaboration with FURECADE -- a public-private partnership designed to prevent the environmental spoilage from the commonplace practice of burning tires or disposing of them en masse into open-pit landfills. Improper disposal or incineration are both harmful to human health, because the chemicals liberated into the air produce pollution and carcinogenic toxins. "By giving a 'second life' to this waste, these issues are fully mitigated, and in the background, there is a generation of long-term employment and the development of sustainable entrepreneurship ideals," says Orozco.
"Of course, we seek to create a sustainable business that reimagines the rubber waste generated from improper disposal of tires. But, we also seek to raise awareness of this problem among local stakeholders, and we encourage them to participate in recycling programs that do exist in the country." Currently, SateLite processes between 150 and 160 tons of rubber waste per month. Their success is a clear demonstration that sustainable initiatives are economically profitable and viable as a business option.
SateLite was quickly successful through its partnership with FURECADE, a government sustainability initiative providing funding to firms willing to sustainably dispose of used tire waste. Within one year, the company was cash-flow positive. It began generating profits for its partners by the third year of operation.
SateLite has actively participated in important events such as Bioexpo Colombia, an annual event showcasing "green" initiatives and sustainably-minded businesses. Their market strategy is based on a quantitative analysis of the Cesar and La Guajira departments. This region can support both the robust supply of used tires and the profitable development of infrastructure using the shredded rubber granules. Presently, SateLite reaches annual revenues between 500 - 700 million pesos ($150k - $205k USD).
The company prides itself on providing excellent results, and it continues to innovate with high-quality offerings. Orozco shares how the company is growing, "After [SateLite's] start-up, we created a rubber granule certified by an international company to comply with FIFA requirements. This certification allowed us to sell it for use in professional synthetic soccer fields."
SateLite has fundamentally improved the environmental problem of improperly disposed of tires throughout the Cesar department of Columbia. Its growth is impressive -- from its first-year (2017) average of processing between 20 and 30 tons of tires per month, its increasing market diversification helped it exceed 150 processed tons in 2018. In partnership with the FURECADE foundation, there are presently 40 direct and 100 indirect employees. Most recently, SateLite entered the legislative conversation, promoting a bill to establish a "Sustainable State Plan." The endeavor catalyzes the protection of environmental resources by creating physical centers to centralize gathering and processing (shredding) of used tires.
"I visualize a country full of committed people who understand that when we unite, we will have a much more sustainable world full of possibilities rather than adversities," concludes Orozco.
Fernando Orozco, Founder (Arquitecto)
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Valledupar, Cesar, CO
Business Website: https://www.facebook.com/sateservinte/
Year Founded: 2017
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
SateLite Servicios Integrados S.A.S is dedicated to eliminating landfill waste of old tires by first deconstructing them into multipurpose rubber granules. According to the founder, Fernando Orozco, "Recycling rubber from old tires reclaims approximately 72% of the total waste generated if the tires are simply discarded. We shred tires into three sizes of rubber granules -- the largest size is 4 to 6 mm, then 2 to 4 mm, and the smallest size is less than 2 mm."
Environmental and sustainable development initiatives spearheaded within the Columbian Department of Cesar (similar to a U.S. state) make sourcing used tires an easy process. One of four recently piloted sustainability projects, FURECADE (Aprovechamiento de residuos de llantas), helps organizations like SateLite procure and process recycled tires into useful rubber granules. These granules are used in the construction of safer foundations for playgrounds and synthetic soccer fields, and rubber floors for gyms and pedestrian pathways.