Nearly all of the 241 tonnes of rubber inner tubes had to be hand-loaded onto the nine sea-cans shipped overseas, as the product was awkward to handle with a bobcat and any contamination could have meant receiving a lower value for it. Images: National Tire

Ponoka County commits another $300,000 to tire recycler

Additional money will help speed up the processing of giant mining tires on the site

The partnership between Ponoka County and the company working on processing the massive tire stockpile off Bobtail Road has grown once again.

The owners of National Tire Recycling (NTR), along with its business consultants appeared in front of Ponoka County council at its meeting Feb. 12 to provide updated plans for the operation.

NTR owners Yaroslav Stetsyuk and Vasyl Billavich, plus consultant Christian Pommer of End Point Corporation, spoke for about 45 minutes on the progress made to date and what is planned for the immediate future to turn the business into a profitable and ongoing concern.

To achieve that, council — without Coun. Doug Weir (on holiday) and Reeve Paul McLauchlin (left early to attend another meeting) — approved two motions to continue the county’s support. The first will see the county lease equipment needed to expand the product lines available while processing the estimated 5,400 giant mining tires (GMTs) on site. The other one bumped up the financial commitment from the county by another $300,000 for an overall total of $1 million.

“With these requests, it will help National Tire create an ongoing endeavour while cleaning up the mess left by the former operations while becoming a profitable enterprise by the end of 2019,” Pommer explained.

As well, this assistance is projected to help NTR end its financial dependency on the county by July and then begin to pay off the $1 million in July 2020.

Pommer added that because of getting the approval now, NTR will be able to fulfill its timelines to hit the spring market with the mulch product orders for landscaping companies.

“Top of mind is dealing with the estimated 5,400 GMTs and that requires some additional equipment plus different methods to turn them into various products,” he noted.

This new process means the addition of a second production line for the GMTs with a buffing machine that will take a tire — ranging from 11 to 16 feet in diameter and weighing about five tonnes — and remove the tread portion that will be shredded into three different sizes. Another cutting head with then slice the remaining portion in half that will be marketed as water troughs, which NTR also has orders for from customers.

“The market for the water troughs is higher than the current supply and that gap is getting bigger,” Pommer said.

“Some U.S. states are issuing incentives to use this product because of its recycled nature.”

CAO Charlie Cutforth added to the positive aspect of the new product, noting he recently received two calls of interest from companies south of the border — in Oklahoma and Nebraska — inquiring about making purchases.

“It’s frankly shocking the demand for it and it appears the market is nearly unlimited. The challenge though is making sure there is still money in it once trucking is included,” he said.

Pommer explained that processing will begin in April and will initially start with eight GMTs per day, based on a five day work schedule.

“We have a destruction timeline, with a slow ramp up of productivity and the plan is to have all GMTs off of county land by October of 2020,” he said.

“A significant part is the mulch that is produced is not new or innovative, but it’s proven and importantly, playground safe. Mulch from other production in Alberta and Saskatchewan use a different part of the tire, crushing it a different way leaving the wire in it. This process shaves the mulch from the tread, so there is no wire.”

NTR will also be looking into the opportunity to sometime incorporate colour dye into the mulch, which would increase the profit margin on the product used in landscaping.

“NTR’s budget projections are based on sales at current order levels. There is a larger demand and market plus a premium price for coloured product, but that isn’t shown in our revenue or profit margins.”

Past and future

Council was also updated on what NTR accomplished last year plus given a glimpse of the long term plan.

In 2018, NTR shipped 241 tonnes of inner tubes for recycling along with 176 tonnes of rims and other metal plus around 3,000 tonnes of process and shredded passenger tires. Another several hundred tonnes of otherwise unusable shred were taken by the county to be used in drainage and bridge abutment work.

Meanwhile, the future will see continued work on the site to improve the look as processing moves ahead and NTR’s intention to become an accredited passenger tire recycler so that it can keep processing a modest quantity with no stockpiling.

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