The business of recycling tires


by By Dale Gauding,13News Investigator

Posted on June 24, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Updated Friday, Oct 30 at 3:36 PM

Getting rid of scrap tires is a chronic problem nationwide. For Hampton Roads, it's no different.

Even though Virginia has a system other states have looked to as a model, disposing of them can still be a problem.

When you buy a new tire in Virginia, you pay a 50-cent tax toward getting rid of the old one. The resulting pot of money supports creative uses for old tires, like highway sound barriers made by Concrete Precast Systems of Chesapeake.

Dick Hearrell says the shredded rubber reduces production costs and helps with noise abatement. "It makes it sound absorptive, gives it some cushioning, so there's a lot of value to this," Hearrell said.

The state pays $22.50 per ton to so-called "end-users" of old tires. To companies like Hearell's, that's a lot of money. His firm used 980 tons of scrap tires last year to make most of the sound barriers you see on the highways in Hampton Roads.

But junkyards get no such assistance in recycling tires.

At Ingram's Auto Mall in Norfolk, they're bailing tires from old cars. That reduces the volume by 80-percent. "Now it won't catch fire. It won't breed mosquitoes. So, just by bailing them, you've solved the so-called tire problem," said Robert Ingram, Jr.

When these old tires are baled up and cast in concrete, they become eco-blocks, useful for everything from bulkheads to industrial buildings.

For making the blocks, Ingram gets some of that incentive money, but most scrap dealers don't. They have to absorb the entire cost of tire disposal. "There should be an incentive for them to take these tires, and dispose of them correctly," argued Ingram.

Ingram says junkyards could avoid the tire problem by simply not taking them anymore. But that would create its own problem. Consumers could be dumping tires all over the place to get rid of them.