Three hundred million. That is the approximate number of scrap tires dumped in the United States each year, many in landfills, despite state bans, where they constitute a serious environmental hazard. We’re talking about a lot of bad rubber here.
Today, thanks to the efforts of visionary entrepreneurs such as Karoleen Alexander, president and CEO of Irvine-based World Recycling Surfacing Group (WRSG), a market now exists for up to 80 percent of this scrap material, which is now being recycled for fuel, adapted for civil engineering projects or modified by WRSG and other companies for commercial use as sport and playground surfacing, playground equipment, synthetic grass and, perhaps most unusually, Rubberway Flexible Sidewalks.
“I’ll tell you one thing, the biggest challenge I ever had in my life was trying to make something sexy out of a tire,” Alexander says. “Yet here I am today, and it’s all pretty sexy to me.”
Since the early 1990s, more than a decade before “global warming” entered the American lexicon, Alexander was championing sustainability as a viable business model. Reclaiming used tires and giving them new life through a wide range of products became a passion for the savvy pioneer, but getting people on board to her way of thinking was not without its challenges.
“It was a complete uphill battle,” Alexander says, “Without any incentives or people addressing the issue, lobbying needed to be done.”
For additional information about WRSG and its sister companies, visit sustainablesurfacing.com.