Josh Appleton and Pete Klus operate several Benton businesses under the RCRA banner focusing on excavation, demolition, transportation and environmental concerns.
One aspect of the business in particular is rolling right along — the component of the operation known as Midwest Tire Disposal which collects and transforms discarded automobile, agricultural and commercial tires.
Earth Services — a sister company to Midwest Tire Disposal — had collected used tires under a contract with the Illinois EPA for a decade. Those tires, gathered everywhere from roadsides to tire dealers across the region. Appleton says a few years ago, the pair decided to integrate the disposal of tires into the business as well.
“We had the need either get out of the business or get our own shredder and process the tires ourselves,” Appleton said. “This was because of price increases and the distance to other shredders. It was economics.”
He says not long after the shredder was in place, the company had the opportunity to expand its tire pick-up territory. Today, Earth Services picks up tires from throughout Southern and central Illinois as well as in neighboring states for processing at Midwest Tire Disposal. In total, Appleton estimates the company is handling 1.5 million tires annually.
The business, which operates under strict state and federal permitting and licensing standards, employees about 50 people, half of whom work in the tire unit. Appleton says prior to purchasing a tire shredder and establishing Midwest Tire Disposal, the company used to truck the tires to facilities in other states. Now, by processing tires themselves and growing — a second shredder will be coming online soon — Midwest Tire Disposal is one of the largest tire collection and disposal firms in the Midwest.
Tires for disposal come from a variety of sources including EPA clean-ups, Earth Services’ own fleet of trucks which regularly collect from tire retailers and commercial locations, discarded production from tire manufacturers as well as drop-offs from individuals. The process is fairly simple, Appleton says.
“It’s basically just a big shredder,” he said, adding the process results in several usable products.
“We have several recycling waste streams that result,” he said. “We are able to cut off some treads and sidewalls. Those are used for traffic control — weights for traffic control barrels like in construction zones. We also recycle the wire from tire beads and bale components like inner tubes and other parts for recycling.”
Appleton says another byproduct is TDF or tire-derived-fuel, a combustible material which can be combined with coal or other fuel source for burning, but the Midwestern market for TDF is currently quite low. He adds while though some of the shredded material is converted to mulch for landscape or playground use (it’s “less than 1% of 1%,” he says), most of the resulting material is used as “alternative daily cover,” a required layer placed over landfills daily.
"Our goal is to recycle as much of it as possible, it is just not there yet,” he said. “There are just more tires out there than what can be recycled right now."
Along with the addition of a second shredder, Midwest Tire Disposal is also expanding other parts of its facility to keep up with growing demand.
“There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t add to our routes or pick up an additional customer. We’re trying to do what we can to keep up.”
Midwest Tire Disposal/Earth Services are at 14716 Illinois 14 in Benton. For more, call 618-218-4958 or visit the website at www.earthservices.us.
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