Tire recycling idea gets rolling

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — A garage owner in Hillsville wants to expand his business ventures from rotating tires to recycling them into new products.

The machine central to Ben Bryant's new endeavor is parked by his garage at Finishline Automotive, but if everything goes as planned he'll be moving it to a valley near Buckwoods Road within a couple months to shred tires.

Perhaps you've seen the trailer with the mechanical equipment on it while driving by the garage on U.S. 58 in town — it looks like a big circular metal tumbler.

That's the business end of the shredder, which will turn and cut the old tires down to about two-inch scraps.

Tires supply Bryant with a portion of his current business, but when it comes to disposal he called them "a menace" and a liability.

"I guess I've become very familiar with the physical attributes of a tire."

The insides of tires collect water, which in turn can cause mosquitoes to thrive, he noted. The airspace inside also makes a tire fire really hot.

"Chip it up, it's not that big of an issue," Bryant said about tires and their potential hazards.

Tires take a long time to break down — that's why it's illegal to landfill them.

He started thinking about this about four or five years ago, inspired by a television show.

"As odd as it is, I got the idea off a TV show called 'Dirty Jobs,'" Bryant said. "I got the idea and expanded on it through the Internet."

He's canvassed the other shops in the area, and some places go through 1,000 tires a month.

Tires have to be disposed of properly. His idea would be to provide a disposal service to commercial shops for a fee.

He estimates that his materials recovery and recycling business could collect as many as 250,000 tires a year within about an 80-mile radius in Virginia.

New River Tire Recycling would also make its services available to the state for the clean-up of illegal dumps. "No telling how many million tires are laying illegal somewhere."

Initially, he expects the tire shreds to become fuel that, along with coal, could generate steam or electricity, or be used in cement kilns or paper mills.

He is still looking for a taker for the tire chips.

In the future, Byrant would like to expand the business to make rubber mulch. He does not have all the equipment required to do that yet.

Bryant continues to work with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to secure the required permit for the waste recovery business.

He will soon pull the trailer with the diesel engine-driven shredder to family land in a valley in the western end of Carroll County, where the closest house — 200 feet away — is his aunt's.

It will take some work to set up, due to DEQ requirements, he said. For example, the state environmental agency wants him to catch all the rainwater at his site and take it to a wastewater plant for treatment, Bryant said. "You can't just let it fly, you know."

In January, he held a public comment period on that site, as required by the state. Only Ryan Odum of Waste Industries showed up and talked to Bryant about the business idea.

Bryant expects to complete the permitting process and set up within a few months.

Eventually, he hopes to employ two workers at the materials recovery operation.

"I think it will surpass the garage in terms of a priority," he said, but plans to keep operating the garage, too.