It seemed like a great solution to a nagging problem. There was a growing surplus of tires that had outlived their safe use on vehicles, leaving local governments with the headache of disposal. They might wind up in a landfill or abandoned in mounds along country roads. Or as a short drive on Newton Street behind Porter Square Mall reveals, tossed along the sides of city streets.
Six years ago, Coffee County created a $6 million tire processing center, the bulk of which was bankrolled by an ADEM grant worth up to $5.8 million, and for a while Coffee County turned trash to treasure, transforming discarded tires into shreds that were sold for a variety of uses. Within four months, more than 200,000 tires were reduced to shreds and sold, primarily as fuel but also for use as ground base for playgrounds and athletic fields.
It was win-win-win. Tires weren’t taking up expensive landfill real estate or causing environmental problems or eyesores, and they were generating a bit of revenue.
But nothing is as simple as it seems, and, with the market for tire shreds as fuel shifting to natural gas, officials are left scrambling for new buyers.
Now Coffee County officials are weighing their options, which include discontinuing the shredding operation, at least temporarily.
Officials should redouble efforts to identify a new market – not simply because of the revenue stream, but because there is value in recycling discarded material that would otherwise be an aesthetic liability and costly landfill debris.