What to do with old tires is a common dilemma, but the Ute Mountain Ute tribe and the Montezuma County landfill have come up with a creative solution.
The tribe recently removed 5,000 tires from an abandoned landfill on the outskirts of Towaoc.
“They attract rodents and leach chemicals into the ground, so we are in the process of removing them,” said Quinton Jacket, brownfields coordinator for the tribe’s environmental department. “We’ve got a ways to go still.”
Instead of hauling them to a landfill for disposal, the tribe decided to try and recycle them into building material. Tires were baled into large one-ton blocks using a specialized tire bailer contracted from JLM Inc., of Pagosa Springs.
“It’s different from a regular bailer,” Jacket explained. “The tires are set into a certain pattern, compressed together into a block and wrapped with strong cables.”
Fifty tires from large construction equipment and semis, and also from regular cars and trucks, are expertly arranged to make up one bale. The specialized baler can do up to six bales in two hours.
The tribe loaded up 150 of the bales onto flat-bed semis and delivered them to the Montezuma County Landfill, where manager Deb Barton took over.
“We’re planning to use them for retaining walls and to improve one of our loading docks,” she said. “Once they are baled, there are more uses for them than just loose tires, although it is a challenge to move these large blocks around.”
Once set in place, tire-bale walls can be spruced up by applying chicken wire and stucco. The 60-foot 12-foot wide blocks are interlocked together like Legos, Barton said, and can also be used for non-load bearing sections of buildings. Other uses include berms, barricades, and for erosion control.
The landfill may use them to construct a holding area for electronic wastes.
“We’re happy to be working with the tribe on this,” Barton said. “We like the idea of value added. It’s an experiment. Why not try it, and if it works, who knows, maybe there is a market out there for baled tires.”
The tribe is planning to remove the remainder of the tires from the old Towaoc landfill site soon.
“They are disease vectors, collecting standing water for mosquitoes that may carry West Nile, or rodents with hantavirus,” said Scott Clow, environmental programs director for the tribe. “We want to limit our risks.”
Officials want to reorganize where old tires are stored for eventual removal, and increase security at the old tire dump.
“One of our biggest problems is people who are not part of the community have been dumping their tires here at odd hours,” Jacket said. “It is not a secure site.”