Original Location

Ideas That Work

Topic Recycling

Subject Tire Recycling

Location South Central Kansas (KS)


In an effort to remove unsightly and environmentally dangerous spare car tires from South Central Kansas, the South Central Kansas Economic Development District (SCKEDD) developed a tire recycling program. This program recycles between 100,000 and 140,000 passenger tires per month and converts the tire refuse into crumb rubber. The crumb rubber can then be used in asphalt, playgrounds, turf enhancers for golf courses and ballfields, and as an additive for plastic molded products.

The tire recycling program allows this 14 county area to cut landfill costs by more than half and helps Kansas comply with both present and future federal mandates regarding the disposal of tires. The project is a public/private partnership between SCKEED and the Mid Continent Resource Recovery (MCRR), a private recycling firm. Because of the enormous success of this project, organizers hope to expand the tire recycling program to other counties within Kansas and possibly other states as well.

Successful Practice

Developing a public/private partnership to rid the area of an environmental hazard, reduce disposal costs, and produce a usable and needed product.


[Edited by Ronald Lee Still, North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention]

Case Study

The Problem

The proper disposal of scrap tires is a nation-wide problem. In the United States alone we discard approximately 250 million car tires every year adding to the 2 to 3 billion that are already in waste tire piles. Since the Environmental Protection Agency requires tires to be exposed and not landfilled, areas are running out of places to discard them. This situation has created an extremely dangerous environmental and safety hazard. Prior to the program, the largest of the fourteen counties, Sedgwick County, had a landfill containing approximately 1.2 million tires. This high volume had resulted in an excessively high disposal cost from as low as $1.00 per tire to as high as $2.00 per tire.

Additionally, beginning in January 1994, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 requires states to use crumb rubber in at least five percent of each federally-funded highway project. This requirement will increase by five percent each year until 1997 when all highways will have to contain a 20 percent minimum. Without a plan to produce their own crumb rubber, South Central Kansas will have to purchase it thereby greatly increasing the cost of highway construction.

The Approach Adopted

To reduce the amount of tires being disposed of and assist South Central Kansas comply with federal mandates regarding highway construction and tire disposal, administrators from SCKEDD instituted a tire recycling partnership program. This program has been instrumental in improving the environmental conditions of the area and enhancing economic development for the entire region. The recycling program converts old, scrap passenger tires into crumb rubber. This rubber is then used for a number of different purposes including lining surfaces for children playgrounds, asphalt for highways, turf enhancers for golf courses and ballfields, and as an additive for plastic molded products.

The process is simple. The tires are first cut into small pieces to facilitate the removal of the metal wires which are contained in the tires. Once the first process is complete, the tires are then cut further so that more wire can be removed. This process continues until all of the wire has been cleaned away. The remaining product can be sold as crumb rubber.

How They Implemented the Approach

To implement the tire recycling program, SCKEDD entered a public/private partnership with MCRR. This relationship helped to privatize tire reclamation and recycling in the area. To assist MCRR purchase the needed equipment for the recycling, SCKEDD provided MCRR with a business loan ($150,000) from its revolving loan fund (capitalized by the Farmer's Home Administration Intermediary Relending Program) to supplement private sector investment. Also assisting to off-set the costs to MCRR were the 14 participating counties. They contributed their state tire disposal grant money ($285,000) to further fund the project. This brought the total amount of public dollars loaned to MCRR equal to $335,000.

Finding a market for the crumb rubber was not a difficult problem. Because of a federal mandate stipulating that all federally funded highways must be comprised of at least 20 percent recycled rubber by the year 1997, a large market already exists. Additionally, crumb rubber has been recognized as being superior to sand in children playgrounds. The rubber does not displace as easily, does not cause the scratch injuries, is softer and is not dangerous to throw. Other markets for crumb rubber include turf enhancers for golf courses and ballfields and as an additive for plastic molded products.


Through this tire recycling program, citizens from the participating counties have saved money on tire disposal costs, the rubber is reused eliminating a dangerous environmental hazard, 16 new jobs at MCRR have been created, and new crumb rubber markets have been developed. This program has decreased the cost of tire disposal dramatically from between $1.00 to $2.00 (the cost the landfills charged for disposal) per tire down to $0.50 per tire (the cost the recycling center charges for recycling). The recycling process has proven to be extremely efficient as well as it can currently process between 100,000 to 140,000 tires per month. The original goal of the project was to recycle 8 million tires. At its current pace however, it appears as though project organizers will exceed their initial expectations.

Demographics of 14 counties in South Central Kansas

(Rice, McPherson, Marion, Reno, Harvey, Kingman, Sedgwick, Butler, Greenwood, Elk, Chautauqua, Cowley, Sumner, and Harper)

Area of Focus

population 706,715 (United States N/A)
population per square mile 260 (United States 72)
per capita income $13,501 (United States $14,420)
percentage of population with incomes below the poverty line 10.5 (United States 13.1)
Source: 1994 City and County Data Book

Key Words

crumb rubber

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