Local News

Heaps of Old Tires Threatening Environment

Posted December 10, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— They pile up by the millions, posing threats to the environment and public health. In recent years, North Carolina has tackled more than 200 tire dumpsites and promoted proper disposal, but one recycling company in Harnett County thinks the state can and should do better.

Instead of landing in a scrap heap, Victor Sibilia's tires will be put to good use after a trip through Envirotire, his recycling plant in Lillington.

A conveyor system shreds the tires and extracts the rubber. Everything is recycled, even metal fibers. Sibilia calls his $6 million plant the most sophisticated of its kind in the world, but the company's had a bumpy ride since it opened here in 1995.

The company blames its struggle on state law. It is illegal to bury tires if they're whole, but not if they're chopped up. A majority of tires now end up in landfills, which is cheaper than recycling.

Unless things change, EnviroTire plans to hit the road.

Tire recycling in North Carolina continues to face an uphill climb.

North Carolina's latest report on scrap tires describes the market for recycled materials as weak, so this summer state lawmakers set aside $5 million for grants to boost demand over the next five years.

Editor's Note The number of tires disposed every year in North Carolina is astounding. Last year, we threw out 10-point-six million tires. 45-percent of those were recycled, one way or another. 55-percent were cut up and dumped into landfills. You pay a two-percent tax on every new tire to pay for disposal of the old ones.

Photographer:Rick Allen