The Arkansas-based retail giant, which operates more than 3,000 U.S. stores, has tapped Bensalem’s National Sales & Supply for the recycling. Once the tires are ground up and repackaged as mulch, Wal-Mart will buy the mulch to sell at its stores.
“They’re a big company, so this is a very big deal,” said Jason Shragher, the 4-year-old company’s vice president. “It’ll be 25% of our total business.”
Wal-Mart had piloted the program during the last two years. In 2006, it sold the mulch in about 200 stores. Last year, it increased the number to 600 stores. By the end of 2008, the product will be on the shelves in about 3,000 stores.
“This year, we’re going companywide with it,” said Wal-Mart regional market manager John Mims. “It’s a good partnership. We estimate that 2.5 million tires will end up being cut into mulch.”
Some of Wal-Mart’s stores offer a car care center where customers can buy new tires for their vehicles. The old ones go to National Sales & Supply, which grinds them up at various facilities around the country.
The processed tires, which resemble woodchips, are transported to Bensalem, where the company occupies about 80,000 square feet in a State Road industrial building. There, they are colored and bagged. The mulch is then shipped to Wal-Mart stores for resale.
Rubber mulch can be layered on top of soil in gardens or landscaped areas. The rubber tends to insulate the soil from extreme cold and help it retain moisture. Some playgrounds also use the mulch because it is durable, long-lasting, more pliable and less likely to splinter than wood. It also doesn’t attract bugs like wood, according to the company.
“We’re always looking at ways to be more ecologically friendly,” said Mims, who added the contract with National Sales & Supply will be re-evaluated annually.
In addition to finding a good use for old tires, Mims said the mulch is heartier than wood chips and it does not need to be replaced every year.
“It’ll ultimately save the consumers money,” he said. “It’s a win-win.”
National Sales & Supply also uses the recycled tires to create shock pads, used on pool decks and playgrounds, and tree rings protective pads that sit on the ground surrounding tree stumps by cooking them in molds.
According to Shragher, the recycled tires are non-toxic, organically dyed and free of metal wires, which are removed during the process.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection supports the use of recycled tires for products like these, said spokesman Charlie Young.
“It’s something we encourage,” he said. “We don’t tell [companies] what to do with their tire piles. That’s up to the market. … It’s good to find a use for these tires.” (Tire Review/Akron)