From Silver City Sun-News

Landfill problem is now useful building material
By By Levi Hill
Aug. 30, 2004, 12:01 am

Old tires constitute a huge problem for landfills across the country because of the volume of space they take up, but new projects across the globe and in Grant County are reusing the worn rubber and saving taxpayer dollars.

Kariann Sokulsky general manager for the Southwest Solid Waste Authority landfill South of Silver City said old tires are a problem for the landfill, taking up huge amounts of space and being practically non-biodegradable. Sokulsky said the authority has found a new way to reuse the abundance of tires in the form of bales for construction projects.

A sea of tires fills a section of the Southwest Solid Waste Authority landfill south of Silver City where landfill employees are learning to bale the tires into large bricks for construction projects. Sun-News Photo by Levi HillTire Pile

“We are trying to encourage the local reuse of baled tires in building projects,” Sokulsky said. “The county is experimenting with them as a subsurface base for erosion control projects.”

Sokulsky said the United States generates 300 million scrap tires a year that are not biodegradable and take up exorbitant amounts of space in landfills and because of their structure can float away in heavy rains. She said the landfill has been baling tires since 1997 and has a fairly large surplus of bails now and has a goal to use them all before the landfill closes.
“Our goal is to make sure there are no bales in the landfill when it closes in 20 years,” Sokulsky said.

The landfill recently traded in its old baler for a new one with the help of Ed Drews, owner of Encore Systems Inc., one of only two companies in the world that make tire balers. Drews has sold his balers all over the world and said the idea started years ago when he worked as a grader, evaluating old tires for possible retreading and reuse.

“I had a guy tell me once he wanted to make his home out of tires. I thought it was funny but started looking into it. My wife and I started making tire balers in 1996 and have opened our own company,” Drews said.

Drews said another company has taken his design and begun producing balers as well and he said globally there are more tire balers than in the United States with places like Guam, Australia, Mexico and numerous other countries beginning to bale tires for projects.

The baler, a 46 horsepower diesel compressor, can compact over 100 tires into a brick 30 inches by 50 inches by 60 inches in size that weights nearly one ton and is dense enough that it does not retain water. The bricks are being used as subsurface material for erosion control projects and roadways as well as for walls and even building homes.

Drews said that despite common belief the tires are not harmful to the environment besides being nearly indestructible and make great sub-grade material for these types of projects.

“People often think that the tires leak petroleum into the environment but they don’t. If they did then mosquitoes could not breed in the water that collects in tires because the petroleum would lay on the surface of the water and kill the larva,” Drews said.
Locally the baled tires are already being tested in erosion control projects after huge success with them in Deming, Carlsbad and numerous global locations. Grant County Manager Harry Burgess said the county has begun using the baled tires in an erosion control project near Bill Evans Lake. Burgess said the tires were chosen because of their success in other projects and affordability.

“We are taking tires from illegal dumps and using New Mexico Environmental Department Grant money for this project,” Burgess said. “We are cleaning up these illegal dumps and building the erosion control project much cheaper.”

At about $8 a bale from the landfill and even cheaper with the county using illegal dumped tires and borrowing the baler from the landfill, the project is way under cost from using the common gamble basket, a load of rocks held inside a wire cage, to prevent erosion. Burgess said the county has future plans to use more baled tires in other projects.

“We will be building a retaining wall behind the administration building as well as other projects,” Burgess said. “It is much cheaper and we are reusing a abundant waste material.”
For those afraid of unsightly tires that isn’t the case. The tires are actually invisible in these projects Drews said. They are cemented into place and then plastered over with more cement to conceal them and then the stucco or outer bricking blends the entire project into the environment. An example of a tire bale wall can be seen at the entrance of the landfill.

For more information on tire balers and tire bale projects, visit Encore Systems Inc., at

Levi Hill can be reached at

Copyright © 2004 Silver City Sun-News, a Gannett Co., Inc. newspaper.
Use of this site signifies that you agree to ourTerms of Service
(updated 12/19/2002).