MECCA, Calif.—Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s recall of 6.5 million tires is creating a minor peak in volume for the waste stream, but the pressure is not unbearable these days in the scrap tire business.
"I don't know what else we could do—we're running 24 hours a day, seven days a week now as it is," said Dan Swanson, general manager of First Nation Recovery Inc., a crumb rubber plant operated by the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. "We've agreed to take 4,500 to 5,000 tires a day from Firestone, but we run 10,000 tires a day anyway, so it really doesn't make much difference where the tires are coming from."
The plant is running at full capacity to meet the demands of the paving industry, which is demanding more crumb rubber to make rubberized paving material for roads.
"This is the peak of the asphalt paving season, so all these pavers want rubber for their asphalt," Mr. Swanson said. "We don't have any inventory. We're selling it as fast as we make it, so we'd be just as busy without Firestone in the picture."
The only difference these days is that four Bridgestone/Firestone security guards are stationed at First Nation to watch as trailers full of brand new tires are backed up to the shredder, unsealed and unloaded directly onto the feed conveyor.
Mr. Swanson said the BFS contract is the largest pact he is aware of for First Nation, which opened in June 1999 in the tribe's 590-acre Eco Resource Recovery Park. The park also houses a biomass power plant and several recycling-oriented businesses. First Nation cut a deal with BFS, agreeing to take the tire maker's tires for $20 per ton, he said. The open market price for tire disposal in Los Angeles runs about $35 per ton.
"Firestone's going to be around a long time after this recall, and we would like to have a long-term relationship with them, if that's possible," Mr. Swanson said.
In Dallas, Safe Tire Disposal Corp. is taking in 4,000 tires per day from the Firestone distribution center in nearby Arlington, and if BFS' needs expand, Safe Tire is ready for the volume, CEO Scott Holden said. "Our machinery can process 2,000 tires per hour, so we wouldn't have trouble keeping up with any anticipated volume," he said.
Mr. Holden's tires end up as 2-inch chunks. Seventy percent of the material is used as leachate medium in the bottom of new cells in landfills around Dallas and Fort Worth. The remainder is burned as fuel in cement kilns in the area.
Like First Nation, Safe Tire has given BFS a price break from its usual tipping fee of 70 cents per tire—which equates roughly to $70 per ton—but Mr. Holden declined to reveal the exact figure.
In Denver, crumb rubber maker Jaitire Industries Inc. is finding plenty of customers for its products, but the recall has not had much effect on any part of its operations, including price, President Corny Snyder said.
"We've noticed a marked increase in the number of calls for pickups from Ford dealers in the area, one call a week instead of one call a month, for us to pick up a load of tires, 70 tires," Mr. Snyder said.
But the higher volume is from the firm's regular customers, so they are paying their usual rate of 85 cents per tire, or about $85 per ton, he said. And the volume is not enough to be disruptive for Jaitire, which makes crumb rubber plus a special crumb material that keeps high-traffic turf areas from being damaged by trampling.
"Normally in this country we have 20 million tires a month recycled," Mr. Snyder said. "Firestone is adding a million a month. That's only 5 percent."