Liberty Tire Creating Sustainable Solutions for Scrap Tires

The nation’s largest provider of scrap tire collection and processing services is expanding its reach to move recycled tire rubber up the value chain and grow markets with a sustainable future

Liberty Tire Recycling is widely known as the largest and only U.S. company providing national scrap
tire collection and processing services. It’s a distinction well earned.

Since 2000, the Pittsburgh-based company has been picking up and recycling tires from manufacturers, dealers, businesses and communities large and small, attracting partners and investment along the way, building from one location to a network of thirty-five facilities managing more than one-third of the nation’s scrap tires all with the core value of moving rubber into beneficial reuse and sustainable materials.

The company’s twenty-five processing facilities currently convert scrap tires into raw materials that are used for fuel and reused in molded rubber goods, rubber flooring, rubberized asphalt and shock-absorbing athletic surfaces, as well as playground and landscape mulch.

“Recycling tires into beneficial, eco-friendly sustainable materials and products has been a key part of our long-term sustainable business strategy since day one,” CEO Thomas Womble said.

Liberty Truck“Over the last twenty years we’ve built the foundation to create something outstanding in tire recycling,” he said. “We built by partnering with retailers, manufacturers and communities to assure their tires are properly managed, processed and recycled.”

Now Liberty is taking this foundation of service, reliability and environmental responsibility and pivoting its business strategy to enhance existing markets and create opportunities for new markets and services.

It’s a path totally aligned with its new owner ECP, Thomas
Womble said. In the sales transaction which closed last month, Liberty management co-invested with New Jersey-based ECP, a seasoned investor in the environmental and sustainable solutions sector, who takes a long-term investment approach in environmental commitment.

“We’re poised for the next phase – to be a diversified company, to provide multiple materials and move rubber up the value chain to higher end uses,” Womble said.

In a year dominated by a global pandemic, we had to take a step back and re-evaluate how we were doing things. COVID created new safety and environmental challenges for our employees, vendors and customers, changed how we transacted business and interacted with employees and customers and put a spotlight on the environment and sustainability in all aspects of business and everyday life.

Liberty has multiple end-users and over the last year saw demand for its outbound crumb rubber raw materials rise across all sectors while demand for outbound products particularly in landscape and in-home use markets grew dramatically. Pavers, landscape tiles, timber, tree rings and home gym and play area mats are all selling out, the company said. There’s also been an uptick in demand for crumb rubber in asphalt pavement mixes, pour-in-place surfacing and porous pavements.

“We’ve seen more people looking for environmental products or products with recycled content”, Womble said. “Right now there’s more demand than product.”

Liberty is expanding its reach to meet that demand. With recent decreases in tire derived fuel markets, particularly in the Southeast, Liberty is pivoting to increase crumb rubber production and diversify its outbound outlets. One target is replacing virgin rubber in industrial rubber molded products , others include rubber/plastic products, and rubber compounds.

Last November, the company broke ground on a new raw material production facility in Sanford, North Carolina last Slated to open later this year the new plant is set up to produce high volume mulch and crumb rubber feedstock, and fine grind rubber for use in rubber product manufacturing, rubber compounds, rubber and plastic products and more. A full coloring line with state-of-the art technology and equipment is also being installed.

Liberty is also making capital investments in five existing plants to increase crumb rubber production through a combination of upgraded equipment, and improvements in production efficiency, material handling and sustainable workplace practices.

Last month, Liberty established a senior level sustainability position, naming current Vice President of Market Development, Amy Brackin to serve as Vice President of Sustainability to develop and execute a sustainable strategy for the business that encompasses environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria.

Over the last ten years ESG has become a strategic business discipline that drives value creation over the short, medium and long-term, Brackin said.

“In many ways, ESG has always been a part of Liberty,” Thomas Womble said. “This new position formalizes it and lets our customers know we understand their goals and initiatives and are working to meet their sustainability needs”.

For Brackin, it’s a corporate responsibility. “Liberty is beyond an entrepreneurial company,” she said. “We already have a corporate business infrastructure, incorporating these non-financial metrics is part of being a bigger company. It’s about putting ESG into practice”.

It starts with telling inbound and outbound customers Liberty’s sustainability story and how it impacts their value chain, Brackin said. For example, letting our retail tire dealer customers know what Liberty is doing to be more energy efficient and lessen our carbon footprint, to hire locally and recognize diversity in our hiring practices and how we are working with end users to move more rubber into consumer and industrial rubber products, helps them enhance their scrap tire program and educate their customers and others in the community about what happens to their tires.

“We’re creating value. We want to be a well-rounded ESG partner for the internal and external communities we serve, to help them meet their scrap tire sustainability goals and initiatives.” Brackin said. It’s important to our employees, our customers, our investors, end users of our products, and our tire retail and tire manufacturing customers to know we are building the Liberty brand to be resilient and sustainable for the future. “Tire recycling is already a success story, but people don’t know about it,” Brackin said.

We need to tell to our stakeholders, customers and the driving public that recycled rubber makes many products and materials already in production even better. Rubber asphalt is safer and longer-lasting than traditional asphalt. Rubber mulch outperforms wood mulch. Tire-derived fuel is cleaner than fossil fuels. The examples go on and on.

By telling tire recycling’s story, Liberty and its industry partners can move recycled rubber up the value chain and keep millions of scrap tires out of landfills each year, making the entire process sustainable.

© Scrap Tire News, June 2021