DETROIT-Ford Motor Co. is fulfilling its promise to recycle each of the tires it collects from its voluntary recall of 13 million Firestone tires.
The auto maker completed a proj-ect in Phoenix where the state paved 50 miles of road with rubberized asphalt. The asphalt contained 1 million pounds of crumb rubber recovered from the recalled tires. Ford donated $150,000 to purchase the crumb rubber. The donation also freed $150,000 in funding for Arizona State University to research material properties of asphalt-rubber mixtures.
``We're trying to be a catalyst to expand the market for environmentally responsible applications of crumb rubber,'' said Andy Acho, Ford's worldwide director of environmental outreach and strategy. ``All of us need to be keepers of the environment, not just users of it.''
Recovery Technologies Group Inc. (RTG) has recycled 3.6 million of the recalled tires, producing 40 million pounds of crumb rubber for projects around the country, said Martin Sergi, president of RTG.
Ford contracted with the Guttenburg, N.J., tire recycler to collect and recycle all the Firestone tires returned to Ford and Mercury dealerships.
RTG expects to receive about 7.5 million to 8 million tires from the recall. People exchanged the rest at separate tire dealerships, which are billing Ford to handle them. In May, Ford vowed not to burn or landfill any of the tires RTG collects.
``They're definitely following through,'' Mr. Sergi said. ``A lot of companies pay lip service, but Ford does not. Ford really believes it.''
RTG has dozens of tire recycling projects lined up around the country to consume the tires, including athletic field and playground applications and paving projects, he said. Many of Ford's clients are using the material.
Ford already has donated money to pay for crumb rubber made from the Firestone tires used in several projects. The auto maker paid for 200,000 pounds of crumb rubber for a project in Chicago's Hawthorne Park and another 120,000 pounds for a high school football field in Plattsmouth, Neb.
Ford also has paid for 80,000 pounds used at a nonprofit horse-riding arena for children in Denver, and 80,000 pounds at a playground in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Another 94,000 pounds were used in the sports turf at two Ontario soccer fields.
One market that could be a huge consumer of scrap tires is rubberized asphalt, Mr. Acho said. Only four states-Arizona, California, Florida and Texas-use significant amounts of rubberized asphalt to pave roads, he said.
Byron N. Lord, deputy director of the office of pavement technology for the Federal Highway Administration, said Ford's willingness to use the crumb rubber from the 13 million recalled tires as an incentive to encourage the material's use ``will provide a boost to the technology as well as allowing states to evaluate the value of crumb rubber in hot-mix asphalt pavements.''
The Federal Highway Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is working with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the National Asphalt Pavement Association and the Rubber Pavements Association. The groups are willing to partner with the FHA to provide additional assistance to Ford, Mr. Lord said.
RTG also has benefited from its contract with Ford. Since the deal was struck, RTG has opened facilities in Braddock, Pa.; Conshohocken, Pa.; and Newark, N.J.
The company is buying a tire processor in Wildwood, Fla., and constructing another in Chandler, Ariz. RTG also has plans for its fourth Canadian facility and three more in the U.S. RTG was owned by Rutland, Vt.-based Casella Waste Systems Inc. until Casella divested RTG to a private investor in 2001 for $13 million.