Repurposed Rubber: Tire Recycling in the Gaza Strip

Gaza Strip, Palestine — In the besieged and blockaded Gaza Strip, a 27-year-old Palestinian created a car tire recycling project aimed at reducing environmental damage. In light of the difficulties getting rid of tires in Gaza with the Israeli blockade imposed on the Strip, Madian Helles’ project recycles the tires for use in other industries.

Damaged car tires are piled up in the Gaza Strip without being properly disposed of due to the difficulty of their decomposition and the absence of projects that work on recycling. Without having sound solutions away from environmental pollution, the young Helles was inspired to implement his project.

The main barrier to recycling tires in Gaza has been the land, air, and sea blockade imposed by the Israeli occupation since 2007, leaving the 2 million people living in the 25-mile strip of historic Palestinian land off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in what has been called an “open-air prison.”

The blockade along with years of Israeli bombings of the the Strip have left the declining infrastructure damaged, rendering 95% of Gaza’s water unsafe for drinking while basic supplies needed for medical work, factories, food, construction, and more, are hard to come by.

“[There are] difficulties in every country in the world. Trying to implement any project will face difficulties, but in the Gaza Strip, the difficulties are multiplying. Especially when we talk about the land crossings to the Gaza Strip, which are supervised by the Israeli occupation, and therefore equipment and machines are placed under the ban list, under the pretext of ‘dual use.’

Madian Helles

After tires are used and, or, damaged, “they become worthless” with a large percentage “thrown away and burned … which reflects negatively on the environment” said Helles. He continued, “there is a small percentage that is reused, sometimes in gardens.” That was, until he founded his repurposing project.

“This project contributes to reducing environmental pollution resulting from the emission of burning car tires, by disposing of them in a safe and sound way.”

Madian Helles

There are several stages to the tire recycling. First Helles collects used tires with mobile carts and then using a machine that he assembled, he carries out the recycling process by cutting, slicing, chopping, grinding, and then sorting to remove impurities, threads and fibers.

He then wraps the sorted bits into packages that serve sports and agricultural sectors. “It is a small project that treats a specific part of the tires, and later work will be done to accommodate all damaged car tires in order to return something positive to society, to safely get rid of damaged car tires … and also reduce emissions and pollutants resulting from burning.”

Madian Helles completed his college studies in environmental geology and water resources, a major from which graduates rarely get job opportunities. This added extra incentive for Helles to embark on this experience related to his university degree.

The idea of Helles’ car tire recycling project took shape in the aftermath of the Israeli war on Gaza in 2021. The idea was based on two parts: the first is disposing of damaged tires to help east environmental damage and the second part is entrepreneurship and opening new horizons related to recycling.

For more from Palestine, see our archives.

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