Recalled Tires Recycled, Bridgestone/Firestone Reports

Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. (BFS), Rolling Meadow, Ill., has collected more than 5.64 million of the 6.5 million faulty tires it voluntarily recalled last summer after more than 80 people died in company-tire-related accidents. Now, BFS is calling its scrap tire management plan a success, claiming to have recycled more than 70 percent of the collected recalled tires.

“We've had no significant problems finding outlets for processing,” the company's Senior Environmental Manager Tim Bent says.

Most of the recalled tires were shredded and reused as fuel, or ground into crumb rubber for landfill cover and other products, in accordance with BFS' Recalled Scrap Tire Management Plan, BFS Retail Division Environmental Manager John Sheerin says. The plan, released in Aug. 2000, was written to answer public concerns about scrap tire problems and to inform federal, state and local officials of BFS' progress, he says.

In Sept. 2000, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 5 office in Chicago sent a letter commending the company for keeping the public informed.

Despite the grimness of the situation, the collection and recycling effort was straightforward, Sheerin says. Faulty tires still in distribution centers at the time of the recall were sent back to one of BFS' 10 U.S. warehouses, and faulty tires already on the market were returned to dealers. Using its own trailers, BFS picked up and transported the remaining tires from the dealers to company warehouses, Sheerin says.

At the warehouses, BFS employees drilled holes into the faulty tires or slashed the tires' sidewalls. “We wanted to ensure that there was no way these tires got back on the market,” he says.

Then, capitalizing on its retail outlets' existing relationships with recycling and disposal facilities, the company again used its own fleet to transport tires from its warehouses to recycling facilities nationwide, Bent says.

Fewer than 30 percent of the tires were sent to landfills, Bent says.

Tires were recycled in several ways:

  • Many of the tires that went to the Midwest were shredded and used to construct a new landfill.

  • In Arizona, scrap tires were crumbed and made into asphalt.

  • Under a contract with BFS, Florida Tire Recycling Inc., Port St. Lucie, collected most of the faulty tires in the state and recycled them into new rubber products such as asphalt blends and playground surfaces.

  • In Chicago and Tennessee, most of the tires were burned for fuel.

BFS also contracted with a Native American reservation near Palm Springs, Calif., which recycled hundreds of thousands of tires at the reservation's newly created recycling center, for $20 per ton.

And, the recall remains in effect “forever” — people still can go into any BFS dealer and have their recalled tires replaced, Bent says.