Jefferson County’s tire recycling efforts are good for the environment. They also have the potential to be good for the county’s bottom line.
As the tire recycling center for a 10-county area, Jefferson County is working to find and develop a stable market for the materials produced from recycling tires.
Currently, the primary material produced during the tire recycling process is tire-derived fuel, according to Andrew Armstrong of the Southeast Arkansas Solid Waste District, a part of the Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District.
Other materials can be produced — including rubber mulch, crunch rubber and rubber for playgrounds — but in order to produce those materials the county would have to purchase additional equipment.
Armstrong and others recently met with the director of another solid waste district in the state to talk about working together to market tire-derived fuel.
“The local paper mill used to take some of the TDF but they are not doing it currently,”Armstrong said., adding that a mill in Crossett may purchase some of the material. “We’re currently working with a marketer to try and find long term contracts for the product.”
The Solid Waste District includes Chicot, Ashley, Bradley, Drew, Grant, Arkansas, Desha, Lincoln, Cleveland and Jefferson counties. Jefferson County hauls its own tires to the recycling center, while Waste Management hauls tires for Grant, Arkansas, Desha, Lincoln and Cleveland counties and Get Rid of It has the contract for hauling tires for Chicot, Ashley, Bradley and Drew counties.
Because of its location and infrastructure, Armstrong said Jefferson County has the potential to become a state leader in tire recycling.
“We’ve got the ability to use rail lines, barges and trucks to get the product out there,” he said.
Regarding the possibility of adding equipment to produce the other materials such as rubber mulch, Armstrong said that would depend on whether the district can find a stable market for the products first.
Daniel Marks, the administrative assistant to Jefferson County Judge Dutch King, said the potential to generate extra revenue for the county is exciting.
“Whatever is made now is going to be sunk back into the program but as the revenue increases, we will be able to do other things, too,” said Marks, who is also responsible for grant writing for the county.
A $2 fee charged to consumers who purchase tires goes into a state fund, which is then passed down to the state’s solid waste districts in the form of grants.
Armstrong said the Southeast Arkansas Solid Waste District receives about $380,000 annually from the state for tire recycling.
A byproduct of the recycling, tire beads that are usually found in large truck tires, are not currently being recycled, but efforts to find a market for those beads is also under way.
The ultimate goal is to be able to recycle 100 percent of the tire, with no waste products, Armstrong said.