Without a contractor to pay for the end products, the Coffee County Commission could shutter operations of its tire processing facility for at least one year.
Coffee County administrator/attorney Rod Morgan said the county’s recent customers used the tire shreds for fuel purposes but have recently signed long-term deals to use natural gas. While officials are trying to find other contractors or uses for the shreds, market conditions may preclude the county finding a suitable deal in the short term.
Commissioners will be presented with a variety of plans regarding the tire processing center’s operations during budget discussions, including one that would halt operations during the 2020 fiscal year, Morgan said. Another recommendation may to be to operate the center one day out of the week as it currently does.
The decision on the operations will be made in September when commissioners vote on next year’s budget.
The county opened the tire processing center in 2013 after receiving a grant worth up to $5.8 million from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to build it near the county’s landfill. The county also invested some local funds into the project, mainly operational costs, to push the project’s price tag to more than $6 million, Morgan said.
The project began as an experiment to find an efficient and environmentally friendly way to rid the state of used tires, which are often tossed into ditches and along roadsides. ADEM collects a fee on scrap tires to fund a Scrap Tire Program, which often reimburses counties for collecting the tires from roadsides and ditches and taking them to tire processors of their choice.
Within the first four months of operations, the center processed about 200,000 tires, according to a report from The Enterprise Ledger. Morgan said the center has processed “a fair amount” of tires but has struggled at times to locate companies who could use the end materials.
Morgan noted using tire shreds for playground equipment and ball fields only account for about 20 percent of the market.
“Other uses (outside fuel) just don’t impact the market the way it needs to,” he said.
Morgan said the county has completed all of its obligations to ADEM regarding the grant it received. He also expressed hope that officials could locate another contractor to purchase the tire shreds in the near future, allowing the county to revamp the center’s operations.