Here’s a pic from an older post about turning used tires into a thing of beauty.
Last year, 300 million tires were discarded – about one per American – and 261 million of those were recycled. Most of the 39 million or so tires not recycled were processed for landfill disposal.
A Pittsburgh area company has succeeded in becoming the nation’s largest waste tire processor. Liberty Tire Recycling LLC handled 70 million tires, most of which were recycled for use as fuel or in products ranging from welcome mats and railroad ties to asphalt and athletic fields.
That’s nearly a quarter of all waste tires produced nationwide last year.
The company operates 10 processing centers, which serve 16 states, mostly in the East, and employs 450. Its Braddock plant, with 25 employees, processed about 3 million tires last year with plans this year to recycle 4 million.
“We’re 21/2 times bigger than the next guy in the industry…
“We’re looking to fill in the map from one state to the next and keep building up market share…”
Tires are shredded and processed to produce crumb rubber. The shredded rubber is frozen with liquid nitrogen, then shattered into crumbs as fine as talcum powder.
Steel belting and fiber are removed before the rubber is screened for size for different uses, and the steel is recycled. The 40 million pounds of crumb rubber produced in Braddock is shipped in 1-ton containers to companies that make new tires, mix it with glue to make matting and other rubber products, or combine it with asphalt to make roads more durable and quieter.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association said “rubber asphalt concrete” is used in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida and South Carolina. It’s recently been used to make railroad ties that are stronger, longer lasting and require no creosote as wooden ties do. Shredded rubber, high in BTUs, is burned in power plants and produces fewer pollutants than other fuels such as coal. As more profitable methods of rubber use are developed, less will be burned.
The bulk of crumb rubber is used in athletic fields, where it’s mixed with sand or used as its own layer below artificial turf. Crumb also is poured atop the turf to make the blades stand tall and resemble grass. An athletic field requires 250,000 pounds of crumb rubber – about 20,000 tires.
I spent a few months building proposals to export hammer mill machines and tire shredders to the USSR in the late 1980s. The tough part was gaining the patience of American vendors while they tried to figure out why we were taking months to arrange cross-trading in order to convert rubles into dollars. There are mountains of used tires in the region.