With an endless supply of used car and truck tires and a growing number of uses for the shredded rubber that remains, tire recycling has become a profitable business. Before you jump in with both feet, however, there are several elements of this business to understand. Success will depend on your ability to develop and carry out a good business plan.
Explore Your Tire Market and Follow the Tires
Find out where used tires are currently collected and where they go. There are many businesses other than tire shops that are high producers of spent tires. Virtually anyone with a fleet of vehicles will go through tires, including trucking companies, taxi cabs, buses, and car rental companies. All of these entities can serve as suppliers for your business.
Next, look for potential clients for your finished product. There are many ways that recycled tires are used. The top three, as identified by the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA), are in Tire Derived Fuel, as ground rubber, and by city planners in civil engineering projects.
- Tire Derived Fuel (TDF) – Roughly half of all spent tires end up falling into this category. TDF is a mix of shredded tire scraps and other fuels such as chemical waste, coal, or wood. This fuel can be used in utility power plants, paper mills and cement kilns. Burning used tire rubber in this fashion not only keeps the tires from littering the environment, but it has been shown to burn as cleanly, if not more, than conventional fossil fuels when done properly. Additionally, a tire can produce more BTUs than traditional fuels making it a cheaper source of heat than coal.
- Rubber mulch applications – Rubber mulch as playground fill has become a familiar sight to most of us as it is a soft surface to cushion falls and lasts longer than traditional wooden mulch. When mixed with other products, however, this rubber mulch can further be used to make mats, walkways, and athletic tracks and fields. These surfaces are more forgiving on athletes’ joints and very durable as well. Colorizing equipment can be used to enhance the aesthetic appeal of rubber used in walkways and landscaping applications.
- Civil Engineering Projects – Ground rubber can be used as a substitute in many cases for the sand or clay in road and landfill construction, landfill cover, and septic tank fields. It has also been used as a base layer for light-rail trains. Using tire shreds below roads can increase water drainage below the surface, which helps prevent freezing and damage to road surfaces.
Once you understand where your tires are coming from and where they will end up, you can better shape your business to fill the needs that other companies already have. Many of the applications listed above for spent and shredded rubber require that it be processed into a specific shape or size.
Consider What Equipment You Will Need
Talk to a vendor that makes tire shredding equipment. At ECO Green Equipment, we carry an array of tire shredding machinery with different applications, depending on your particular business plan and needs. In addition to the actual shredders, you will also need dumpsters, screening equipment, conveyors, trucks, and other storage and transport equipment. All of this equipment is an investment. When you consider the cost of equipment and labor, be sure that you will be able to more than cover these costs with the sale of your end product.
Location, Location, Location
Is your location a good one for a tire recycling plant? Tires recycling is messy, loud, and requires a sizeable plot of land. Used tires and recycled rubber products take up space, as does the equipment to process and move them both.
While most people would agree that recycling tires is a great idea, it is not a business that they necessarily want in their backyard. Land zoned for industrial uses or in rural locations can be a good place to start looking. Ideally, the site that you choose should have easy access for deliveries in and out. You will incur costs for the transport of materials to and from your plant. The shorter the distance you have to transport your supplies and products, the better.
Beyond the good for the environment that you will be doing in recycling tires, there are also possible negative impacts from the process of recycling itself. It is a good idea to have proper insurance against accidents or injuries. A tire fire can, for example, produce toxic fumes.
There are also licenses and permits to obtain at all levels of government for tire recycling businesses. The costs associated with these permits can be high. Make sure that you plan for these costs when looking at funding and upstart costs.
Tire recycling is great for the planet and can be a lucrative business. Do your homework, know your market and plan for success.