Sears Grants Amnesty to Scrap Tires

Students at three elementary schools in Los Angeles County have learned firsthand the benefits of collecting and recycling scrap tires. Thanks to Sears Auto Center, Los Angeles, and the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works' December program, Tire Amnesty Day, the children have new playground surfaces made of recycled rubber from the tires.

Sears donated 10,000 pounds of the material to the Torrance, Calif., Unified School District after workers from both organizations collected 600 scrap tires during Tire Amnesty Day. Residents gathered the tires from backyards and alleys and brought them to a mall parking lot.

"[Residents] never knew how to get rid of [the tires] - they didn't realize there was an outlet for them," says Paul Alva, engineer for Los Angeles County. "Some people knew it was expensive to get rid of them and [since this was a free service], they brought the tires over."

Although this was the first Tire Amnesty Day in Los Angeles, the program is part of a nationwide Sears Auto Center initiative called Recycling Old Tires Aids the Environment (R.O.T.A.T.E.). The program was launched two years ago to reduce the number of scrap tire piles and educate the public about their environmental and safety hazards, says Dave Albritton, Sears senior communications manager.

Other Tire Amnesty Days, in which Sears joins with a local organization or agency, have been held in cities such as Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis. Chicago and Baltimore also have hosted Sears programs to donate recycled rubber material for schools and playgrounds, Albritton says.

The first Tire Amnesty Day was held in April 1998 in Detroit, where Sears and their city of Detroit partner collected more than 15,000 tires. Sears footed the bill to have the tires processed at a local recycling facility, and the rubberized product became a basketball court at a local playground, Albritton says.

"There's a huge problem out there of tire pileups that become eyesores and affect public health, and, being one of the leading tire retailers in the United States, we felt it was our responsibility to do something," he says. "We're turning the negative of the rubber in those scrap tires into a positive commodity for kids."

The $40,000 Tire Amnesty Day and elementary school project in Torrance was the first partnership between a public and private entity in Los Angeles County, Alva says. Sears paid for the collection and tire recycling, and the county public works department paid for advertising and public education, he says.

Los Angeles County plans to hold 10 more Tire Amnesty Days in 2000 with Sears or other private companies.

"We're pretty excited about it," Alva comments. "We want people to know that tires can be used for beneficial purposes, and these playgrounds are concrete examples."

Once a year, Dallas-based Community Waste Disposal participates in the city of Euless, Texas' Christmas parade to raise recycling awareness.

Driving a 30-foot-long Labrie recycling truck decorated with lights, employees don holiday shirts, Santa hats and pass out candy canes and blue bags for recycling.

"We also have a banner on the truck telling residents how many tons [of waste] they have recycled over the past 12 months," says Robert Medigovich, municipal coordinator of Community Waste Disposal. "This is a way to educate the masses at a time when they are feeling good - it's a good educational tool."

The extra holiday cheer pays off, according to Medigovich. "In the months after we do this, the recycling tonnage in that town increases greatly," he says.

In recent years, Medigovich reports that recycling in Euless increased by as much as 10 percent. Typically 16 to 18 pounds per household are recycled, but in the months following the parade, about 21 pounds per household were recycled, he says.

The success of the parade helped the company win the Tarrant County, Texas, Corporate Recycling Council Environmental Vision Award last fall. Thirty county businesses are members of the council, which has a goal to "educate the business community and greater community on recycling and environmental issues," says Council President Lori De La Cruz. The main reason the company won was because recycling increased significantly after the event.

De La Cruz also is the public education coordinator for the solid waste division of the city of Ft. Worth, another Tarrant County Environmental Vision Award winner. Ft. Worth's Clean and Green program, developed in March 1998, includes litter cleanup, beautification and education. Thirty-six groups including schools, neighborhood associations and businesses work on projects throughout the city focusing on those issues, De La Cruz says.

"We do projects that cover all three aspects," she adds, noting that Ft. Worth has joined with three nurseries to offer discounts on trees, plants and other beautification items.

Medigovich says the county award means more respect for his company's goals. "This shows the community that we [at Community Waste Disposal] practice what we preach," he says. "We believe that recycling benefits the city and the residents."