Watching the Discovery Channel’s popular series “Dirty Jobs” led to a new Carroll County business.
In 2007, Ben Bryant was watching the television program when a segment on a tire recycling business in the Pacific Northwest aired. For most, it was entertaining. For Ben Bryant, it was a calling.
“For me, about five years ago, I was watching Dirty Jobs on TV. That’s where my idea came from, they were doing something on a tire recycler in Oregon or Washington,” Bryant said. “That got me sparked into it.”
So shortly thereafter, Bryant got into the business and opened New River Tire Recycling. About a year and a half ago, he moved that business into the old Cross Creek building on the north end of Hillsville. There, he and a crew of around 10 employees take used tires and turn them into a number of useful products.
“Probably the first market we come to tire drive aggregate, which replaces gravel or stone or dirt in applications such as septic systems and any type of road projects,” Bryant said. “It can be used for that. It’s also used for daily cover of the landfill here at Carroll-Grayson. They’re able to save a lot of dirt they have to dig and save some diesel moving and digging dirt.”
Another application for shredded tires is in creating power.
“Our next product is TDF, which is tire drive fuel. It’s an alternative fuel to coal or natural gas or propane that they would normally use,” Bryant said. “They mix it with coal and wood chips in order to produce energy or to make paper in paper mills; that’s a big thing.”
Bryant said the shredded tires can also be used for mulch for landscaping or for playgrounds.
“The next market down would be a landscaping mulch application. We can make a plain black rubber nugget that’s 99 percent wire free, or we can put a coloring on it to make it whatever color a person would want,” he said. “We can also do playground mulch, which is different from what you would find at a retail store today. It’s going to be a lot smaller in size and just a more consistent blend. It’s a lot nicer playground mulch, what we make versus our competition.”
Some of the rubber is also sold at wholesale prices to manufacturers to go into new tires or other rubber products at a savings versus new rubber.
When the tires are turned into mulch, there’s the issue of the steel that’s still inside the tire. Bryant said that once it’s extracted, it doesn’t go to waste.
“We extract the steel at the point of making the landscaping or playground mulch,” Bryant said. “We’re able to recycle that in the steel market. It turns into a zero waste product.”
Bryant said New River Tire Recycling has about a 150-mile radius from its Hillsville location, collecting tires from as far away as Bristol and Roanoke. He said the business has several North Carolina clients, as well. Bryant noted that there aren’t many tire recyclers in this part of the country, so he has a large area to service.
“It’s a very rare business. We’re one of only two other major processors in the state and they’re in the Northern Virginia and Richmond area,” Bryant said. “Our main competition comes from North Carolina.”
The clients, mostly businesses, pay a disposal fee to give up the tires. New River can come to the business and take the tires in smaller shipments or in larger loads.
“We pick up tires from smaller tire shops with box trucks. We also place trailers that do high volume of tires. They can fill it up for us and we’ll bring them a new one when it gets full,” Bryant said.
Bryant said he really gets into the machinery end of the business, the part of the job he really loves.
“On the machinery side, that’s a challenge for me and it drives me,” Bryant said. “The machine that extracts the steel from the rubber, I built myself. I was able to put different design aspects that work for us. That’s part of my passion for the business is the machinery that does the work. The business gives me a great platform to do that. I can experiment because I have a purpose to.”
Recently, Bryant’s business reached a benchmark en route to its eventual goal.
“We’re celebrating a milestone. We are now past 1 million tires a year in this business in Hillsville. That was a milestone for us,” Bryant said. “Our ultimate goal is between 2 and 3 million as a stopping point because of the radius you have to work with. With the transportation, it’s hard to go further with the price of diesel.”
New River Tire Recycling is located at 54 Cross Creek Road in Hillsville. For more information on New River Tire Recycling, call 728-0201 or visit www.newrivertirerecycling.com.