The “Company Profile” is an Earth911.com series highlighting consumer goods and services making a difference through product stewardship and recycling. Products and services featured do not pay for placement and are not endorsed by Earth911.com.
Tires are a common item for most people, but the issues surrounding their disposal might not be so common. In fact, every year on average, 290 million tires are disposed of. That’s about one tire per person in this country alone. About nine percent are said to be discarded in landfills. Not a large number? Well, since that equals about 27 million tires per year, it starts to add up. Where many see this as a problem, one company sees it as the foundation for their business.
With the help of Rubbersidewalks Inc., recycled tires are enjoying a fresh purpose – off roadways and onto walkways. Through tire waste, Rubbersidewalks Inc creates interlocking pavers that are intended, as the name suggests, for sidewalks.
To learn more about these innovative products, we spoke with Dan Joyce, sales director for Rubbersidewalks Inc. According to Joyce, while recycling used tires is a worthwhile endeavor, the product offers many other environmental advantages over traditional sidewalk surfaces, especially when it comes to protecting healthy trees.
Rubbersidewalks, Inc. was established in 2001 by Lindsay Smith, who previously initiated an effort to save trees slated for removal along a sidewalk in Southern California. Her interest in protecting trees led her to Richard Valeriano, a public works inspector for the city of Santa Monica. She was impressed with Valeriano’s concept for a rubber-based sidewalk and established her business to take the idea further.
Tire recycling by the public assisted Smith in launching the business, Joyce says. She was awarded a grant from her home state’s Intergrated Waste Management Board, which receives money from tire disposal fees.
The Tree Link
While using recycled tires is the foundation for the business, the desire to save trees is at the root of it. The original goal revolved around manufacturing a product that allows trees and sidewalks to co-exist safely. On traditional sidewalks, trees with bothersome roots sometimes lift and crack the concrete surface. Broken sidewalks are a maintenance hassle for municipalities, not to mention the danger they can pose to pedestrians.
The modular nature and flexibility of the interlocking rubber-based pavers allows workers to lift a section of paver, trim roots, then replace the paver, saving the tree while also saving the city a great deal of hassle.
Rubbersidewalks, Inc. manufactures a number of products to meet cities’ varied needs:
- Rubbersidewalks™ pavers, the original version, are made with 100 percent rubber from recycled tires. That amounts to repurposing about 98 tires for each 100 square feet of sidewalk, Joyce says. The pavers are manufactured in sheets sized to allow them to fit easily into most municipal sidewalks.
- Terrewalks™, a freshly released version, are a hybrid that use a blend of recycled tires along with recycled agricultural plastic irrigation waste. These pavers are lighter, easier to install and allow for variations in texture and hue, Joyce says. They fit together by joining interlocking tabs. “A 10-year-old could put together the pavers,” he added.
- EZ Bricks™, shaped like standard bricks, are made of 100 percent recycled tires.
The Right Stuff
While concrete is less expensive initially, Rubbersidewalks, Inc.’s products are more economical when you factor-in maintenance and repair costs in the long-run, said Joyce.
Also, unlike concrete, the recycled pavers capture rain water and allow it to seep through the seams to reach groundwater supplies. Additionally, fewer fuel-powered vehicles and equipment are needed to install and maintain the product than would be needed for traditional concrete sidewalks. While most uses are on paths adjacent to trees, some buyers incorporate the pavers into other types of projects, including green roofs, Joyce says.
Making a Difference
Since 2002, Rubbersidewalks, Inc. has installed about 500,000 square feet of rubberized pavers in more than 100 cities. That equates to reusing about 2,200 tons of recycled tire rubber.
Joyce’s favorite “R” is recycling, because he appreciates that the recycling industry is “finally coming mainstream.” He also added that,“There are so many innovative products that are using recycled materials.”