Hertz shifts gears, gives new life to old tires

Hertz shifts gears, gives new life to old tires

When it comes to tire recycling, Hertz is ahead of the pack.

The rental car giant has formed a partnership with Liberty Tire Recycling to turn all of its tires into everything from mulch to playground flooring. As one of the largest rental car companies in the world, Hertz (NYSE: HTZ) claims that this is the first zero landfill waste tire program in the industry.

For Liberty Tires Recycling, the Hertz deal represents a big gain. The Pittsburgh-based company is the largest tire recycler in North America and annually converts more than 110 million tires into raw materials for sustainable products like rubber mats, playground products, toilet plungers and street asphalt.

"We're always looking to develop partnerships with companies that have a significant amount of tires," said CEO Jeff Kendall. "We have a large footprint in the United States and Canada and they have a similar presence in their industry, so it's logical that we would form a partnership."

Kendall said his company recycles the old tires of most of the large tire sellers, including Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), Costco (NYSE: COST), Pep Boys (NYSE: PBY) and Bridgestone Tires.

Hertz spokesman Richard Broome said the deal with Liberty Tire Recycling came together quickly.

"It took only a few months to work out a relationship," Broome said. "We knew we had all of these tires that were damaged and we didn't have a consistent source of disposal for the tires; some were being recycled and some were going into landfills. We really wanted to get a handle on what was happening to these tires."

Hertz goes through about 160,000 tires a year and on averages the company replaces them after eight or nine months, Broome said.

"It not that the tires get worn out," he said. "But what happens is that some tires get damaged; a customer might run over a nail or something like that and you need to change the tires out."

Photo of tires and recycling bin provided by Blazej Lyjak/Shutterstock

Broome said he expects others in the rental car industry to follow Hertz's lead.

"I expect that others will begin the process once they've had a chance to look at it from all sides — economic as well as sustainability," he said.

Right now, the Hertz recycling program is for its North American operations. Broome said one challenge for Hertz was figuring out if Liberty Tires Recycling could handle the company's workload.

"We have 39,000 locations and we were looking hard at logistics," he said. "We wanted to know if Liberty could really handle our (recycling) on a national basis.”

Broome said the new recycling program joins the company's other sustainability efforts, including oil recover and reuse of waste water.

Since the early 1990s when many state legislatures began enacting laws dealing with the practice of stockpiling tires, the recycling business has grown. Now, about 90 percent of tires, 304 million are recycled in America. About 25 million are still going to landfills.

Experts say that more corporations are taking up tire recycling as part of their sustainability efforts.

"In general we're starting to see more corporations engage in sustainable management practices that include recycling tires," said Michael Blumenthal, vice president of the Rubber Manufacturers Association. "Now we are seeing a wide range — from large corporations all the way down to regional companies."

Kendall said he believes recycling tires is a straightforward process.

"I think there are very few impediments," he said. "We pick up the tires efficiently and it's not as expensive as some people think."