POMONA, Calif.-T.Y.R.E.S. Inc. could be considered one of the success stories in the risky tire recycling business. Founded with one mobile shredder and great expectations, the firm has developed within a matter of a few years into a 4-million-tire-a-year operation with a number of lucrative contracts and partnerships.
The firm also is the only tire recycler in California licensed as a Woman Business Enterprise, a state designation that helps the firm vie for contracts as a minority-owned operation.
Currently T.Y.R.E.S. Inc.-which stands for Technical Yield and Recovery of Energy Sources-collects, culls and shreds tires for seven landfills in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties and two private tire diversion sites and provides cleanups of private tire dumps.
President Hazel Blankenship said her firm has been profitable since its inception and has experienced a 175-percent growth rate between 1991 and 1994.
Now the tire processor has finalized a joint venture between two counties and Mitsubishi Cement Corp. The firm plans to collect 1.8 million tires from public landfills and private diversion sites this year and transport the whole tires to the cement company as fuel for its kiln-the largest in North America, according to Mitsubishi.
Mitsubishi test-burned tires at its plant in Lucerne Valley, Calif., last year and in May began using a fuel mixture of 10 percent whole tires and 90 percent coal. Mitsubishi said it plans to increase the percentage of tire fuel to 22 percent next year.
Ms. Blankenship never intended to get into the tire business. Her husband, John, was a land developer whose former partner bought a shredding machine in 1988 in hopes of developing a lucrative tire-shredding business with the help of a new state law banning whole tires from landfills by 1991.
After a frustrating few years in the cash-, labor- and machinery-intensive business, the partner asked Mr. Blankenship to look over the operation to estimate its resale value.
Mr. Blankenship eyed the potential of the business and he decided to buy it. ``I thought he was nuts,'' Mrs. Blankenship recalled. But ``he saw the potential that tires could be a resource rather than a problem.''
When Mrs. Blankenship took over the operation in 1991, it had one Tri-C shredding machine, a tractor to transport the shredder, a pickup truck and one three-month contract to shred tires at a landfill in Los Angeles.
T.Y.R.E.S. Inc. turned into one of the survivors of the rush into the tire recycling business created by the state's ban on landfilling whole tires.
``There are so many shredders sitting around California. A lot of people...saw the law change and thought: `This is a real easy business to get into.' They set up a machine and six months later they're out of business,'' Mrs. Blankenship noted. But she and her husband realized the importance of securing tire-shredding contracts with landfills-first obtaining contracts on a six-month term ``to establish credibility'' and then garnering two-year terms, she said.
It wasn't easy generating those contracts. Mrs. Blankenship said her big hurdle was knocking down the popular perception that tire processors are ``thieves, liars and crooks.''
``We had to overcome that,'' she said, by educating potential clients and talking to people and showing them the company's track record.
The company has been profitable since its inception, she said. With contracts as its cornerstone, the firm took steps to keep costs as low as possible and initially used temporary help to cut down on workers compensation and other labor expenses.
Today, T.Y.R.E.S. Inc. collects and processes tires at the public landfills, its own diversion sites and from abatements of private properties with a fleet of 24 truck tractors, vans and other vehicles.
The operation has grown from shredding and landfilling 1.8 million tires in its first year to shredding and/or recycling 4 million tires in 1993, according to Mrs. Blankenship.
Mrs. Blankenship expects to process 1.8 million tires this year for Mitsubishi Cement and from 2 million to 4 million in 1995.
And by next year, she claimed, there will be no scrap tires landfilled in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino or Orange counties as all the waste tires are expected to be consumed as TDF by Mitsubishi as well as three other major cement manufacturers in Southern California-Southwestern Portland, Riverside Cement and Cal Portland Cement.
Mrs. Blankenship is looking to supply TDF to the three other cement companies as her company plans to open at least three private diversion sites where tires will be accepted for a fee lower than that charged by most public landfills.