SAN DIEGO-International Tire Recycling and Manufacturing Corp. of Vancouver, British Columbia, has stepped in to help two Southern California entrepreneurs develop a shredding operation at a San Diego prison. Michael Bowers and Ben Felt broke from the investment and finance field to start USA Recycling Inc. They successfully secured a contract to lease land from the R.J. Donovan correctional facility in Chula Vista, Calif., as well as to tap the prison's labor force.
California's Proposition 139 allows private industry to lease property from the state department of corrections and employ inmate labor.
Messrs. Bowers and Felt considered medical waste recycling and other ventures before settling on tire recycling as an ideal prison operation, Mr. Bowers said. But they lacked start-up capital and operational expertise.
Enter John DeVries, president of International Tire. Last January, Mr. DeVries acquired 100 percent of USA Recycling for cash and stock. Messrs. Bowers and Felt were retained as the company's top executives.
International Tire now is lining up British and Swiss investors to raise the money to build a 36,000-sq.-ft. tire-shredding facility at the prison. USA Recycling hopes to begin operations this fall, Mr. Bowers said.
The plant will have the capacity to convert 3 million waste tires per year into 40 million pounds of crumb rubber, for use in elastomeric concrete, in polymer and urethane markets as a rubber feedstock replacement, and as filler in various manufacturing applications, said Gerald Koldyk, chief financial officer of International Tire.
``We have 3.5 acres of land and a large building,'' Mr. Bowers said. ``We'll be able to handle 8,000 to 10,000 tires a day.'' The operation will employ 30 to 50 prisoners, most within 18 months of parole.
International Tire Recycling projects annual sales of $6 million, drawing tires mostly from San Diego County.
USA Recycling has options to build and run four more waste-tire-processing plants within California's prison system.
The R.J. Donovan prison already has a brewery machinery maker and private machine shop under the program.
Besides the tire shredder, a T-shirt silk-screening business will be added this year, said prison spokeswoman Lt. Marion Daniels.
The prisoners are paid minimum wage, with their earnings split between victims' restitution, prison room-and-board expenses and a savings account accessible only at parole or release.