CHICAGO—Scrap tire dumps still may litter neighborhoods, but one major retailer hopes a grassroots initiative will make tire recycling as commonplace as recycling aluminum cans. Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s Automotive Group has introduced a program called Recycling Old Tires Aids the Environment. The program is designed to muster support within communities to pick up scrap tires and recycle them, much like Arbor Day encourages people to plant trees to beautify their areas.
Sears partners with local organizations in cities where it identifies a cleanup need and has a significant market presence with its automotive centers and National Tire and Battery stores, according to a spokesman for Sears Automotive.
The firm created the recycling program to help solve the scrap tire problem, draw public awareness to scrap tires and boost its image as a responsible company, the spokesman said.
Scrap tires are an eyesore for the neighborhoods, the spokesman said. ``By getting involved with the grassroots folks, we generate energy in the local area.''
The company kicked off the program April 18 in Detroit with the NTB Tire Sweep and Blight Flight, where more than 1,000 residents brought in more than 15,000 scrap tires. One woman voluntarily transported 2,000 tires in a U-Haul truck to the designated collection site, he said.
``She said (the tires) were all from the neighborhoods,'' the spokesman said.
The scrap tires later were converted into crumb rubber and used to pave a basketball court at an area park.
Similar events were held during August in Boston and Baltimore.
NTB donated a total of 60 tons of crumb rubber to refurbish playgrounds at three Maryland state parks. Emanuel Tire Co., a tire recycling firm based in Baltimore, provided the crumb rubber for the Maryland projects.
Sears plans to donate 40 to 50 tons of crumb rubber to Chicago by year's end as part of a citywide beautification program.
The crumb rubber will be used as mulch at the base of trees.
For 1999, Sears plans to carry its tire recycling program into eight or 10 cities across the U.S., the Sears Automotive spokesman said.
The company didn't disclose how much it is spending on the program.
In the long run, Sears hopes the tire recycling program will give its automotive outlets an image as permanent fixtures in communities that are helping to solve the scrap tire problem, he said.
``We want to be seen as responsible since we're one of the leading tire retailers,'' the spokesman said. ``Overall, our concern is being responsible in the communities where we live because all the folks who work in those stores live in those areas.''