NORFOLK, Va. (April 24, 2000)—For much of his life, Bobby Ingram has loved cars and understood the value of reusing old auto parts.
But for many years the owner of Ingram Auto Mall in Norfolk couldn´t find any worth from the used tires brought to his two salvage yards. He would pay the $1 tipping fee per tire to have a hauler take them to a landfill, an amount that added up quickly as he accumulated 72 tires per day from his ventures.
Now, Mr. Ingram is converting his tires into concrete blocks and selling them to a company that makes movie sets for Hollywood and for the popular TV show "The X-Files."
"We´ve been looking for ways to get rid of tires forever," Mr. Ingram said. "Only a year ago did I read about Eco-Blocks."
Eco-Blocks is a patented process of Lakeland, Fla.-based EcoSystems Inc. Tires are crushed into bales, bound with carbon steel banding, then encapsulated with concrete to form blocks weighing 10,000 pounds and containing approximately 140 tires, Mr. Ingram said.
He received a license from EcoSystems last year to produce and sell Eco-Blocks in eastern Virginia and created a new venture called Ingram Eco-Blocks of Virginia. The blocks can be incorporated into a variety of end uses, including sound barriers, retaining walls, breakwaters and river channels, according to literature from Ingram Eco-Blocks.
Since its start-up a year ago, Ingram Eco-Blocks has secured two contracts—one of which is with New Dominion Pictures in Suffolk, Va. Mr. Ingram recycled approximately 9,000 tires to make blocks for New Dominion, which used them to make mock buildings for a set. New Dominion paid $400 per block, he said.
Mr. Ingram has also talked with a few government agencies about purchasing Eco-Blocks for erosion and dredging projects.
One of those potential projects includes possibly selling blocks to the Army Corps of Engineers to use in a retaining wall on a 700-ft.-overpass. But he admits no contracts with this or any agency have been finalized.
"Most all of (interested buyers) are government agencies, and they don´t move real fast," Mr. Ingram said. "They talk in terms of getting ready to do something right away, and I´m thinking I better get rolling, but they say `yeah, we intend to start this within 12 months."´
But Mr. Ingram is confident that one day his side business will grow even beyond his current auto parts company. Already, he earns 50 cents for every tire he recycles from the state of Virginia and eventually plans to haul scrap tires from local dealerships at a tipping fee of 75 cents to $1 per tire.