Saving tired tires

  • REINVENTING THE WHEEL: Tire bales for building

    photo courtesy Cordova and Sons

Ernest Cordova is "burning rubber" to come up with new ways to put old tires to use. His family-owned business, Cordova and Sons of Cuba, N.M., collects and recycles used tires to make bales for landscaping and building projects.

Americans discard 270 million tires each year, says the Department of Environmental Quality, a huge burden for a nation trying to put the brakes on landfills. Cordova diverts about 100 tires from the landfill with each bale he manufactures, compacting the rubber into blocks convenient for building. Using tires instead of rocks or concrete for projects saves labor, time and money, he says; moreover, "tires are beautiful and work great if you do it right."

Cordova also supplies tire bales to a new generation of tire recyclers at the Colorado School of the Mines in Colorado Springs. Engineering professor Bob Knecht says that his students have incorporated tires in their design projects for five years, and have built walls of tires that reduce highway noise five times better than any product on the market. "They work very well," he says. "Hopefully, they'll catch on."

"It's a simple way to use something that's a real pain," says Stuart Hoenig, a retired engineering professor and a tire recycling advocate. "If the tires are just laying around, they get rainwater and insects in them, and they're a fire hazard."

You can contact Cordova and Sons at 800/806-6328 or visit to find a tire recycler near you.

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