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April 2007

From concrete to rubber, Rubbersidewalks aims to improve tire recycling rates 

Americans produce nearly 300 million worn out automobile tires annually. California generates 40 million, while New York State generates 25 million.

California-based Rubbersidewalks, Inc., says that its sidewalks, made of 100 percent recycled tires, can help with all those old tires.

Founded in 2001 and following 2 years of trials, the firm began commercial sale of its 2 by 2 feet and 2 by 2.5 feet Rubbersidewalks in 2004. Sales continue to grow.

The whole tire is recycled in the manufacturing process, ­­rubber, steel and nylon.

“By the time the rubber is ground up, the steel and nylon components are not a problem,” says Lindsay Smith, the president and CEO. “It is a process of taking crumb rubber and mixing it with other materials and cooking it under compression.

“The product is basically an alternative to concrete and is preferable to concrete in certain applications such as where there are tree roots or freeze/thaw situations,” she adds. “Our goal at a minimum is that every city will set aside at least 10 percent of their annual maintenance contracts for Rubbersidewalks. If cities don’t start putting in our product, they will never catch up with the problem of chronically broken sidewalks. The longer they keep dealing with concrete, the longer the problem will continue.”

Unlike concrete sidewalks, which crack due to pressure from tree roots and temperature extremes, Rubbersidewalks, being made of a resilient material, expands and contracts.

Moreover, like paver stones, Rubbersidewalks are easy to install due to their interlocking system – there is no need for loud and heavy equipment or forms.

Each Rubbersidewalks’ paver consists of five tires, and recycles material that will never break down in landfill.

Rubber sidewalks have been installed in Baltimore, Washington D.C., Chicago, and various cities in California such as San Francisco, Oakland and Redwood City. Boston and New York City will soon be installing them.

A square foot of Rubbersidewalks costs $8. Due to the increasing price of concrete, Smith says she is unable to give an equivalent price for concrete, but notes she is getting calls from municipalities that are paying $10 or $12 per square foot for concrete.

Though significantly lighter in weight than concrete, Rubbersidewalks (five square feet) are still heavy, weighing 54 pounds each. Shipping can be costly, which is why the company is partnering with RubberForm Recycling in Lockport, New York to provide more cost effective product on the east coast. Production will start in April, 2007.

“Municipalities are tired of wasting money to replace damaged concrete sidewalks,” says Smith. “Rubber sidewalks have been in the ground since 1998 are still going strong.”

Rubbersidewalks can handle salt and sand in winter and can withstand the pressures of snow removal equipment.

“We have laws that discourage landfilling tires and many states don’t allow people to stockpile tires,” says Smith. “The cost of landfilling tires is going up, which is the best way of discouraging this practice. In California, many improvements have been made and rubberized asphalt that uses crumb rubber is being recognized as a great advantage to our roads.”

Smith is pleased that more government incentives are being offered to recycle tires and to purchase products made from them.

The original idea behind the product was to save trees.

“Concrete sidewalks suffocate tree roots and prevent trees from getting water and nourishment,” says Smith. “So what you have is a tree root system that will do anything to get water and air. Under Rubbersidewalks, a tree is being nourished and the roots do not need to become aggressive.”

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