MULCH ADO ABOUT TIRES: Ford workers get deal on the recycled product
May 21, 2003
BY MARTY HAIR
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Ford Motor Co. is making it cheaper for employees to lay some rubber.
The automaker is offering its Michigan workers, retirees, contract and supplemental personnel $2 off the cost of bagged landscape mulch made from recycled tires.
The coupon on Ford's internal Web site is valid the rest of this year on purchases of rubber mulch at area Frank's Nursery & Crafts stores.
The offer is being made to let workers participate in an environmentally responsible use for recycled tires, said Andy Acho, Ford's worldwide director of environmental outreach and strategy.
"It looks good all the time. It doesn't attract bugs. It doesn't freeze," Acho said. The product is nontoxic and safe to use around landscape plants, according to Acho and a spokesman for the manufacturer, GroundScape Technologies of Brooklyn Heights, Ohio.
GroundScape Technologies worked with Frank's to carry the product after Acho indicated Ford wanted to offer an incentive to employees to buy it. The carmaker did not subsidize the deal and gets no money from it, Acho said.
At Frank's 28 Michigan stores, sales have gone from about 115 bags a week to 700 bags in the five days after the coupon became available to employees May 7.
While rubber mulch costs about 3 times as much as shredded or chipped wood mulch, it will not need replacing for at least seven years, said Acho, who has spread several thousand pounds of rubber mulch in his yard in West Bloomfield. Before the $2 Ford discount, the red or brown rubber mulch at Frank's costs $12.99 for chips or $14.99 for shredded mulch in a 1.6-cubic-foot bag.
Red rubber mulch is already in place outside Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, which is where it drew the attention of Jayati Khare, a Ford systems analyst. When she discovered the discount available to Ford employees last week, she printed out the coupon and made plans with her husband, Somesh, to buy the mulch and start using it to replace stone mulch in front of their house in Troy.
They had been considering less expensive wood chips but, with the discount coupon, "We thought, 'Let's give this a shot,' " Jayati Khare said. Her husband, an environmental engineer, investigated the rubber mulch and decided it was safe, made good use of a recycled product and that the mulch would be more friendly for their children than stones had been.
According to Paul Ruesch, an environmental engineer who specializes in tire recycling for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago, studies show the recycled shredded or ground tires are safe to use on playgrounds and in gardens.
"It does not leach off contaminants at levels of concern. It's pretty benign material," said Ruesch. He said he wouldn't hesitate to use rubber mulch around landscape plants or as a ground cover but personally would opt for organic mulches around vegetables for both appearance and moisture-holding capacity. He said a handful of companies around the country are selling products made from recycled tires.
The tires used to make mulch are collected from car dealers and shredded. A magnet pulls out parts containing metal and a blast of air blows off fiber.
The pieces are then color-coated. While GroundScape Landscape mulch is available in brown or red, the same company produces brightly colored rubber surfaces called GroundScape Kids to cushion school playgrounds, including an ocean-blue version to be dedicated May 29 at Beard Elementary School in Detroit.
Acho works on environmental and recycling issues including the company's RAT (recycling action team) patrol, which finds ways to reuse consumer products -- plastic, bottle caps and nylon carpeting as well as old tires.
Rather than see tires sent to landfills or burned to fuel kilns, Ford works with a supplier that collects traded-in Ford and Lincoln Mercury tires, cuts them up, freezes them with liquid nitrogen to a temperature of 180 degrees below zero and then shatters them into pieces, Acho said.
What remains is crumb rubber the consistency of black sand. Ford has donated money to 130 high schools and colleges in North America to purchase recycled crumb tire rubber to use on athletic fields, running tracks and as mats under playground equipment. Acho declined to specify how much that cost Ford.
Crumb rubber from recycled tires is also mixed with sand at Ford Field in Detroit as well as other pro team fields, and Ford has donated it to mix with asphalt for new roads in Arizona and New Mexico, surfaces that Acho said last longer and are quieter than conventional highways.
Ford has been working on ways to recycle tires for a decade, although the supply increased by the millions after the Bridgestone/Firestone recall in 2000. Those tires are out of the supply stream now, said Cary Senders, vice president for sales and marketing for GroundScape Technologies. But his company still tries to use 25 percent of tires collected from Ford and Lincoln Mercury vehicles for the mulch it sells through the automaker's discount.
"There's a feeling that these are their tires, so to speak," he said. After it delivered tons of rubber mulch to Dearborn last year and Acho started testing it in his yard, GroundScape ran a pilot program last fall where Ford employees at a Cleveland plant could buy the product.
"They went nuts. We sold almost 3 1/2 truckloads over six weekends," Senders said.
GroundScape Technologies, formed in 1999, began selling landscape mulch to consumers this spring based on Ford's encouragement.
"You're watching the beginning of a new product making its way into the consumer stream," Senders predicted.
If it catches on, rubber mulch will be around for a while. GroundScape mulch carries a color warranty for 8 years and a product warranty of 50 years.
"The terrible thing about a tire is, nothing ever happens to it. The great thing about this product is, nothing ever happens to it," Senders said.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....