The disposal of tires represents a significant burden on the environment, so companies like Marangoni developed methods to recycle and reuse old tires. Watch how retreading machines make old tires usable again.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: When your tire wears out, you take it to a shop where it’s tossed out for a new one. The discarded tire is typically recycled — ground up and chemically broken down to use as a building material in streets or parks. Some companies hope to recycle differently. For years, companies like Marangoni have been saving tire casings, replacing the old tread (the rubber that touches the ground) with new tread in a process called “retreading.” These tires are not only easier to make — they typically take 20% of the energy of creating a new tire — they perform well too, standing up to the same tests that one-use tires are subjected to.
The main advantage of the tire-retreading process comes from reusing the casings, which accounts for about two-thirds of the value of a new tire. Reusing tires also cuts down on the amount of raw material used and CO2 emitted during the industrial production process.
Let’s take a look at the retreading process step-by-step.
A worn tire that is to be retreaded comes into the factory and undergoes visual and instrumental checks. Integral to this step is a Laser Shearography device, a tool that scans the tire in a vacuum to detect damage or defects not visible from the outside as well as separation of the plies, the group of cords and metal wires within the tire. Tires unsuitable for retreading are not discarded, they are destroyed in a thermal processing plant that burns the tires in an enclosed furnace, converting the tires into usable energy without an enclosed furnace, converting the tires into usable energy without emitting harmful gases. The unburned material is recovered. Casings deemed suitable for retreading are tagged with a barcode and are ready to be buffed.
Casings enter a machine that buffs off the remaining tread. The amount of tread that’s removed varies according to the type and size of the casing. The surface is now ready for the application of the new tread.
The buffed casing moves to the crater processing stage. Here it is inspected, and any surface imperfections are repaired. The buffed tire is coated with a sticky layer of non-vulcanized rubber or gum. A pre-vulcanized ring tread liner is stretched and fitted around the tire. A laser ensures the machine is centered on the tire, while clamps emerge and press the tread liner down. The machine holding the tread withdraws. Rollers emerge and smooth the tread liner to the casing.
Each tire is fitted with a rubber envelope and vacuum-sealed. They are brought to an autoclave, or pressure chamber, where each tire will be cured. The tires are simultaneously subjected to immense heat and pressure. The chamber heats up to 250° F and imposes around 88 pounds of force per square inch for two and a half to three hours.
Finally, a technician applies the finishing touches.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in March 2019.
The roar of the MGM lion. NBC’s iconic chimes. The godlike C-major chord of a booting Apple computer. Companies have long used sound to distinguish their brands and to create a sense of familiarity with, and even affection for, their products. Microsoft went so far as to tap the ambient-sound legend Brian Eno to score the six-second overture for Windows 95, a starry ripple trailed by a fading echo. Lately, however, the sounds have proliferated and become more sophisticated. Amazon, Google, and Apple are racing to dominate the smart-speaker market with their voice assistants. But a device need not speak to be heard.
No longer do household machines merely bing or plink or blamp, as they might have in a previous era when such alerts simply indicated that the clothes were dry or the coffee was brewed. Now the machines play snippets of music. In search of ever more tailored accompaniment, companies have turned to experts such as Audrey Arbeeny, the CEO of Audiobrain, which composes notifications for devices and machinery, among many other audio-branding pursuits. If you’ve heard the start-up pongs of an IBM ThinkPad or the whispery greeting of Xbox 360, you know her work. “We don’t make noise,” Arbeeny told me. “We create a holistic experience that brings about better well-being.”
You may be skeptical that an electronic jingle, however holistic, can make doing the dishes a life-affirming endeavor—or even one that might bind you, emotionally, to your dishwasher. But companies are betting otherwise, and not entirely without reason.
Human beings havealways relied on sound to interpret stimuli. A good crackle is a sure sign that wood is burning well; the hiss of cooking meat might be the original branded audio experience. Pre-digital machines offered their own audio cues: Clocks ticked; camera shutters clicked. The noises may not have been intentional, but they let us know that stuff was working.
An early example of a device that communicated data through sound was the Geiger counter. Invented in 1908 to measure ionizing radiation, it makes an audible snap to signal the presence of alpha, beta, or gamma particles. (Viewers of HBO’s Chernobyl will understand why this is useful: The person operating the device can simultaneously observe the surroundings for visual cues of radiation.) Decades later, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory studying machine interfaces popularized a term for sounds that act as vessels for easily recognizable information: earcon. Like an icon, but aural instead of visual.
In the 1950s and ’60s, advances by Japanese manufacturers in piezoelectric technology—squeezing crystals between metal plates to generate energy—helped usher bleeps into the consumer market. One of the first musical notifications by a household machine was inspired by the Prohibition-era lyric “How dry I am,” featured in the 1952 Westinghouse D-5 Dryer. By the 1980s, kitchen appliances around the globe were emitting monophonic beeps to alert us to the progress of our coffee, dishes, and laundry. (So, too, were in-home smoke detectors, digital watches, and a host of other new devices.)
The digital revolution—and the shrinking size and cost of computer chips—means that consumer goods are now capable of playing MP3-quality audio files. Some of these sounds remain fairly plain: You’ve perhaps heard an LG washing machine play a little ditty at start-up (do-di-deedle-di-di!). But the trend is toward more complicated compositions with loftier ambitions (and not only for household appliances, but for automobiles, credit-card readers, food-delivery robots).
At Audiobrain’s Creamsicle-colored offices in Manhattan, I listened to some of Arbeeny’s recent work for Whirlpool. One machine, the Whirlpool Smart All-in-One Washer & Dryer, is designed to complete full loads in a single machine. Arbeeny was tasked with composing sounds that would amplify Whirlpool’s “Every Day, Care” campaign, a marketing scheme intended to evoke feelings of familial tenderness and acts of love (because nothing says love like laundry). To suggest an intimate touch, Arbeeny recorded fingertips drumming on denim. The washer’s start-up theme is a bubbly harp melody. Another product, the KitchenAid Smart Oven+, is geared toward “any cook looking to unlock their creativity”: When starting up it plays a trill of custom-made kalimba; the tick of its digitized timer is reminiscent of a clinking spoon.
Arbeeny contrasts the layered, polyphonic compositions she’s created for these appliances with the grating bleeps of microwaves past. They’re softer, for one, and more personal. “It makes you feel like there’s a human playing that harp for you, plucked by human hands,” she said. Inside the conference room where we sat, we could hear an air conditioner groan. “And it doesn’t sound like that,” she added.
The sounds are still intended to be functional. Our machines prod us—ever so gently!—through our tasks. But they also set a mood. The person washing socks becomes the “hero” in a domestic drama, Brandon Satanek, the global senior manager of product and digital user-experience design at Whirlpool, told me. An appliance’s notifications provide the soundtrack to that movie, which follows an emotional arc. When the KitchenAid Smart Oven+ finishes preheating, it plays a hopeful phrase (da-da-di?), while a finished bake is accompanied by a triumphant da-di-dum! Likewise with the washer/dryer. “There are certain happy events in those situations,” Satanek said. “When you’ve finished washing your clothes, and you’re ready to smell those clean clothes, it’s a moment to celebrate. We want to reinforce those things in a really positive way with the sounds.” Cue the harps.
These companies believe that bespoke sounds deepen customer loyalty: If you like what you hear, Satanek explained, you will develop brand allegiance, replacing a Whirlpool with a Whirlpool, and seeking out other members of its product family.
Whether this is a realistic bet or wishful thinking is an open question. Sound is more visceral than sight, Daniel Levitin, the celebrated neuroscientist and author of This Is Your Brain on Music, told me. We’re more easily startled by sound because, unlike vision, it’s processed directly in the brain stem. But first, sound waves cause our eardrums to vibrate. “They sound like they’re coming from inside our heads,” Levitin said. “That’s very intimate.” In the 1990s, Levitin researched how sound might be built into Microsoft’s operating systems, which were trying to keep up with Apple’s earcons—the intuitive crumple of an emptying trash can, the pleasing whoosh of outgoing email.
A wealth of studies in consumer psychology attests to the power of sound to affect our decision making. In one famous experiment from the ’90s, British wine shoppers bought five times as many French bottles as German bottles when French accordions played in the store; when an oompah band sounded, German wine outsold the French. Still other studies have suggested that slot-machine noises, often high-pitched and in major keys, can nudge gamblers to keep playing and can even encourage riskier bets.
A kitchen isn’t a casino, however. Can a well-considered score really make consumers more likely to buy a Whirlpool over a GE? Will the sock washer still feel heroic the 50th time he runs the machine—or merely annoyed? Audio UX, an audio-branding studio based in New York, recently commissioned a study that found that custom-made “premium” sounds, as opposed to “generic” ones, were likelier to be associated with the correct action (e.g., turning on a dishwasher) by test users, most of whom also said they’d prefer to own the brand that offered the customized cues. Those results serve the interests of the company that produced them, but the findings tracked with some of the academic work in this field. Vijaykumar Krishnan, the chair of the marketing department at Northern Illinois University, has found that changing a product’s sonic logo to a more distinctive composition can increase how much a consumer is willing to pay for the product.
But specialized sounds for household goods must be in keeping with a customer’s expectations for them, the academics warned. Too many audible flourishes from an oven—an appliance that doesn’t usually make much noise—could stand out in a bad way. “A coffee machine or a vacuum cleaner with a ringtone would be a marker of inauthenticity,” which can irritate people, says Nicolai Jørgensgaard Graakjær, a professor of music and sound in market communication at Denmark’s Aalborg University. In a Whirlpool showroom, I found the tones Arbeeny composed for the smart oven cheerful and unobtrusive. But in an actual kitchen, with a jingle emanating from the dishwasher, Slack notifications clacketing from an open laptop, text-message alerts pinging from an iPhone, and some Tchaikovsky burbling from an Amazon Echo, a harried cook might be forgiven for failing to appreciate the finer points of the KitchenAid’s preheat composition.
Too many sounds, carefully designed though they may be, runs the risk of turning into an irritant, or worse. Dexter Garcia, a co-founder of Audio UX, pointed me to a 2010 article in The Boston Globe describing “alarm fatigue.” Nurses at Massachusetts General Hospital had become so bombarded by constant alerts, they ignored the critical beeps signaling a dying patient. The problem is pervasive: In a study at Johns Hopkins Hospital, nearly 60,000 alarms were recorded over 12 days—that’s 350 alarms per patient, per day, hammering staff ears.
Most households aren’t quite there yet. Even as their notifications have grown more baroque, machines themselves have become quieter overall, engineered to mute hums, drones, and grinding motors. Arbeeny sees her work as battling ill-considered walls of noise, and improving upon the clunky piezoelectric blurts of old. In the abstract, she is undoubtedly realizing that goal. But as ever more appliances seek to distinguish themselves aurally, a cacophony seems inevitable, one in which even the most carefully wrought melody might be drowned out by the din. Sonic branders may be in the business of selling sound, but perhaps the first question a product designer should ask is: Could it be quiet instead? In the near future, the smartest machines might turn out to be the ones that know when to hold their peace.
This article appears in the September 2019 print edition with the headline “Why are Washing Machines Learning to Play the Harp?”
Health workers represent a sixth of all COVID-19 cases, and a disproportionate portion of that group are migrant health workers.
We need to have solidarity with migrant workers and provide them with better working conditions. Solidarity involves assisting and supporting others because we recognize something shared between us like our common humanity.
Migrant health workers need more personal protective equipment, living wages, less immigration barriers, and the right to raise concerns without fear of reprisal.
Lisa A. Eckenwiler is a Professor of Philosophy at George Mason University, Vice-President of the International Association of Bioethics, and a Member of the Independent Resource Group for Global Health Justice.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
Recently the World Health Organization reported that health workers represent 1 in 6 reported cases of COVID-19 infection, part of what has been described as an “unprecedented, massive worker safety crisis.” Migrant health workers make up many of these cases.
Filipinos represent 4% of nurses in the United States but 31% of COVID-19 deaths among the profession. Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) health workers in the United Kingdom’s National Health Service have become ill and died in disproportionate numbers. Haitians, many of them asylum seekers, have endured illness and death since the virus gripped Quebec’s long-term care settings.
The US and many other high-income countries have long relied on foreign-born and educated nurses, nurse aides, doctors, and others working in long-term care, hospitals, clinics, and more. As COVID-19 has unfurled, migrant care workers across the world have served on the front line of crisis response and suffered for it.
Migrant care workers’ heightened risk of exposure for themselves, their families, and their communities is not coincidental. It is a reflection of structural health vulnerabilities that are born from stereotypes, workplace conditions, systemic poverty, immigration processes, housing costs, and other historic systems of oppression.
These workers are often reluctant to raise concerns about inadequate supplies of necessary resources for fear of sanctions that range from discrimination to deportation. Those working in long-term care often live on the edge of poverty and ill health, with low wages, few benefits, and some of the highest occupational risk there is. Psychological stress suffered by health workers of all kinds, especially migrants, in this context is unprecedented.
Why we need solidarity
Why should our concern for this heightened loss of life and opportunity among these healthcare workers go beyond regret or pity?
A key reason draws from the ethical notion of solidarity. Solidarity involves assisting and supporting others because we recognize something shared between us like our common humanity, or our need for care when we are sick and as we age. At its core, solidarity is the belief that people are fundamentally embedded in social relationships and cannot truly exist as individuals without relying on others, especially given our need for care in the face of illness and other hardships. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of our shared frailty as humans and our need for care.
Solidarity with migrants — and all health workers — requires providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), better staffing ratios, decision-making power over patient care and matters of management, the right to raise concerns without fear of reprisal, and living wages and fair benefits that afford ample social and economic protection, such as sick leave and health insurance, and moreover, are more befitting skilled work involving vulnerable people.
Furthermore, it requires reforming immigration and asylum processes that can pose barriers, like long waits to obtain visas. Many thousands of refugees and other immigrants with health degrees already living in “destination” countries like the US work in jobs below their level of education, or want to work but are unemployed due to complexities of licensing requirements. Better coordination at the federal level, between the Department of State, Health and Human Services, and Citizenship and Immigration Services — in addition to better global governance over so-called human health resources, could also show solidarity.
There are also self-interested reasons for showing concern for workers’ conditions and their health. When facing a contagious disease, heightened risk for anyone translates into heightened risk for everyone. If a nurse has access to an N95 mask, it doesn’t just protect them — it also inhibits the spread of infectious particles to patients (who may not even be in for COVID-19) and their families, filtering 95% of airborne particles. When we don’t protect our healthcare workers, entire communities are at greater risk of infectious transmission. The tragic loss of elders in nursing facilities across Quebec and the loss of life in the Filipino community make clear precisely this threat to public health.
While there is an ethical imperative to show solidarity through specific actions promoting collective safety, self-interest should provide more motivation. The lives of Filipino nurses, Haitian nurse aides, and Nigerian doctors and their families are interwoven with the lives and health of elderly Quebecois and Americans, and in turn, their communities. To protect migrant care workers as well as ourselves we must provide them with sufficient PPE, living wages, better representation so that they can voice concerns, and more. This is not just a need in the time of COVID; it is a long-term effort to re-imagine how we care for people. Our health is, and has long been, interdependent. We are bound to one another.