Berkeley County company turning piles of used tires into big bus - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Berkeley County company turning piles of used tires into big business

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A Berkeley County company says they are putting up $2 million dollars to help more schools and businesses use recycled tires. 

For nearly 2 years, a small factory off Cypress Gardens road in Moncks Corner has been steadily building a business out of mountains of old used tires. Marty Sergi is the President and COO, "South Carolina has 5 million scrap tires a year plus all the rest of the rubber scrap that needs to find a home and traditionally they've gone to landfills."

But in part because of VIVA South Carolina in Berkeley County, those tires are no longer being buried at the landfill. Sergi says, "here at Viva our goal is to recycle all of South Carolina's tires, and in our first year we have been able to capture approximately half."

As the tires and even rubber from other plants like piles of scrap rubber from the BMW plant in South Carolina make their way through the plant, they are broken down into smaller and smaller pieces. The steel from the steel belts is even separated. You can see a giant magnet pulling up the scrap steel. That ends up back outside the plant, and two truck loads of the steel per day is hauled off to Charleston Steel and Metal  where it is sold to be recycled again.

The rubber from the tires is broken down into even smaller pieces and is then sold as anything from mulch to rubber stepping stones to even playground padding. Some of it is ground to a fine consistency and added to asphalt to build roads.

Every single day tractor trailer loads of trash is recycled.

Sergi said, "you're actually able to recycle 100% of what comes in. So we'll get between eight and ten trailer loads of material in each day and we're proud that only one 30 yard dumpster a month leaves here. And frankly about half of that is trash from our lunch room."

That is good news for the some 50 employees who work at the plant.

Robert Tucker drives a truck to pick up the tires at the landfill. "I think that's great, you know, for the future of my kids. They won't have to worry about tires in the ground."

Julie Ricafrente is a supervisor, "I like the fact that we protect our kids and our flowerbeds are pretty and we do all that just from old tires."

The problem is, in the case of playground rubber, the product costs about 3 times as much as wood chips, which is what is traditionally used. However, wood chips need to be replaced annually. Viva South Carolina is putting up $2 million to offer at no interest to schools like Boulder Bluff Elementary in Goose Creek. They took advantage of the program. By spreading the cost out over five years, the annual cost is the same or less than wood chips, and after five years, costs cut back to maintenance only, since the rubber product lasts about 10 years or so.

And since it is rubber, the product is safe and helps prevent injuries during falls.

Their business is growing quickly, and if that continues, Marty believes they could hire up to 100 new employees over the next year or two.

Rucker says that's more good news. "That's great. It feels like job security to me."

You can find out more about Viva SC at their website… http://www.vivarecycling.com/

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