Old tires get second chance at North Side company

July 8, 2011 (CHICAGO)

You probably don't think about what happens to your old tires after you purchase new ones -- and the big ones that outfit semi-trucks and airplanes likely never cross your mind. But for nearly a century, Lakin General Corporation on the Near North Side has been finding new "green" uses for those old parts.

Here's a thought you could probably do without right now: snow. But rest assured, this is not a story about the forecast. It's about the eco-friendliness of the tool you probably love to have: snow-blowers.

"This is a snow thrower paddle...and this is what's used to propel the snow when the consumer is pushing it along their driveway or sidewalk," said Younger.

At Lakin, massive tires from trucks and airplanes get a second chance at usefulness. Workers shear off the tread and process them to make parts for many brands of snow blowers and plows.

The company makes dozens of other parts, too. Most are used in the automotive and agricultural industries.

For Lakin, being "green" is not a new concept. The company has been around since 1919. It spares about 100,000 to 150,000 tires from landfills each year. Vice president Gib Younger says the recycling and re-use is not just good for the environment. It's a good product that's good for business.

"The tires themselves have a lot of very, very good properties. I mean they have a good quality rubber and they have the reinforcing plies. So it's a very durable material, a very strong material," said Younger.

Depending on the size of the product being cut, hundreds of parts can be made from a single tire. Very little is left over.

"There's other parts of the material which are just like pure rubber when we cut off the tread section and that actually goes back into reclaimed rubber, so we actually really use pretty much the whole tire. Not much that leaves here does go into landfills," Younger said.

Any scrap rubber left after die cutting is sent to another company that grinds it up and uses it to make fuel, playground equipment and decorative mulch.

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