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Iowa State University Extension

Looks like mulch, must be — tires?

mulch made from shredded tires

No matter what it’s made of, landscape mulch needs to look like mulch to be acceptable to consumers. It also must be safe. So when Tire Environmental of Muscatine wanted to improve its shredded tire products to gain market ground in the landscape mulch arena, the company called upon ISU Extension’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS). With CIRAS’ connections, better metal detection and some new coloring technology, what once rolled down the highway is now beautifully underfoot on playgrounds and in landscaped spaces.

To be safe for playgrounds and landscapes, products made from shredded tires can’t contain exposed wire or entrapped steel bits. CIRAS’ Paul Gormley brought in Iowa State’s Institute for Physical Research and Technology (IPRT) to review the company’s process. IPRT helped the company improve metal detection and sorting capabilities to remove the wire and steel.

As a result, the company’s black shredded tire material “had all the positive characteristics it needed to be sold, except it didn’t look like the products it was supposed to replace,” said Tire Environmental’s general manager Dennis Froehlich.

Once again, enter Gormley. “I knew of two Iowa companies that work in the colored wood mulch industry — Becker-Underwood and Marion Mixers — that could help Tire Environmental make their ideas real. So I set up some phone calls, and they took it from there. Sometimes it’s just about putting the right people together.”

In 2007 Tire Environmental implemented the new coloring technology and sold 50 tons of the colored, shredded tire material and 200 tons of black ground cover. Froehlich said. “We have had nothing but good comments from our dealers and customers; sales are increasing as more and more people are exposed to our mulch.”

This article appeared in February 2008 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter