Bad tires come to good end

Ford pushes recycling effort

Recycled rubber
Number of tires collected: 4 million

Rubber reclaimed from 1 tire: 14 pounds

Total rubber reclaimed: 56 million pounds

Uses: Repave roads in Arizona; paving parking lots and basketball court in Detroit

Some of the rubber from the 13 million Firestone tires replaced by Ford Motor Co. likely will be back on the road - and even in the road.

Ford Motor hired Recovery Technologies Group of Guttenberg, N.J., last summer to collect and recycle recalled tires from the nation's 4,500 Ford Motor and Lincoln Mercury dealerships.

Recovery Technologies removes the metal and fiber in the tires and then sells the recycled rubber. Company President Marty Sergi said the rubber, about 14 pounds per tire, is used to make fender liners, bumper covers and other molded auto parts. It also can be used in pavement.

The recalled tires collected from Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealerships are expected to yield about 98 million pounds of rubber.

Ford Motor gave the Arizona Department of Transportation about $200,000 to buy 1.3 million pounds of recycled rubber from the recalled tires. The rubber was used this fall to pave test roads near Phoenix, said Donna Carlson, executive director of the Rubber Pavements Association. Engineering students from the University of Arizona will study the pavement to learn about its durability and performance compared with asphalt.

Ford Motor also has paid for the rubberized paving of several parking lots and a basketball court at a school in Detroit, said Andy Acho, Ford Motor's worldwide director of environmental outreach.

Recovery Technologies has 16 recycling sites nationwide and has collected nearly 4 million tires from Ford Motor and Lincoln Mercury dealerships since the recall began. Sergi estimates the company will collect between 2.5 million and 3 million more tires before the project is complete. The rest of the recalled tires have been replaced elsewhere.

Ford Motor is paying for the recycling with part of the $3.2 billion it set aside to cover the recall. Ford Motor would not break out the costs for just the recycling.

But recycling is expensive. Recovery Technologies freezes the tires to minus 180 degrees Fahrenheit and then shatters them into 2-inch squares. The steel belts and fiber are then extracted. What's left is "rubber crumb," Sergi said. The company sells the rubber from the tires and keeps the profits.

Said Acho: "None of the tires being collected from Ford or Lincoln Mercury dealers are going to landfills or will be burned."

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com

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