Memphian Harold Horton — hauling a trailer filled with 128 tires — arrived at Mac's Tires on Elvis Presley at 4:30 a.m. last Thursday morning. He was still waiting patiently in line six hours later.
Horton's truck was one of about 60 pickups — each loaded with stacks of tires — snaking down Springbrook Avenue, nearly one mile away from the drop-off site for the city and county's joint tire redemption program. Since 7 a.m. on Thursday, workers had unloaded tires.
"When they started the tire redemption program last December, my son and I went out and collected 700 tires. I got two loads of those in last time before the program shut down," Horton said. "I stashed the rest, and this week, I'm dropping them off."
The city and county launched the second round of the highly successful tire redemption program Monday, March 8th. Citizens collected $1 per tire with a limit of 200 tires per day. The program was launched in December as a way to clean up numerous illegal tire dumps across the city.
When the program ended a week later, more than 56,000 tires had been collected.
"Both times, [the city and county jointly] allocated $100,000 for the program," City Council member Harold Collins said. "But we had to pay Mac's Tires $43,000 of that. We'd anticipated that part being free."
Collins was under the impression that Mac's Tires would process the tires using a state grant the company receives for waste tires. But it turned out that the grant would not fund the program, so the city and county had to use some of the money originally intended for citizens to pay Mac's Tires.
Mac's Tires is the only tire recycler in the region. Once the tires are collected, Mac's Tires transports them to a plant in Mississippi, where they are placed in a machine that separates the rubber from the wire inside the tires. The rubber is chopped into chips, which are sold to the Tennessee Valley Authority to be converted into fuel.
According to Collins, the program has made a huge impact on clearing illegal tire dumps across the city. Second-hand tire dealers often dump tires in abandoned lots to escape drop-off fees at recycling centers.
"If a second-hand dealer takes tires to Mac's Tires, they're charged anywhere between $2 to $6 per tire," Collins said. "So it's much cheaper for them to dump the tires. Right now, the penalty for dumping tires is only $50 [per load]."
A new ordinance, which takes effect in April, will up the fine for tire dumping to $50 per tire. Collins said the council and County Commission hope to make the tire redemption program a biannual event.