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Tired of waste: smackover company converts waste tires into marketable products.

On April 2, 1991, Mid-South Reclamation Industries Inc. of Smackover gave new meaning to the phrase "burning rubber."

Mid-South had begun recycling used and defective tires in August 1989. The company grinds and processes tires into marketable products such as fuels and rubber turf for playgrounds. Mid-South was the first company of its kind in Arkansas.

But operations came to a halt last spring. A fire was ignited by a piece of overheated equipment in a raw material storage area. The fire burned for three months, destroying $975,000 in processed tire inventory.

Mid-South's cleanup costs were $172,000. The cleanup was completed last month.

According to Mid-South's chief executive officer, Terry Atha, the company has recovered from the fire.

"Not that our pockets are real deep, but we had some pretty good reserves," he says. "We're confident our future will be bright."

There are several reasons to be optimistic, Atha claims.

A contract with the city of Benton, which operates the state's second-largest landfill, has increased Mid-South's tire supply.

Mid-South also receives tires from individuals, two major manufacturers and other sources.

New waste tire regulations, which would give an additional boost to Mid-South's tire supply, are being considered by the state. A spokesman for the state Department of Pollution Control and Ecology says the proposed program would include grants for the state's 13 solid-waste management districts. The grants could be used to remove waste tires and establish collection facilities. The program also would include regulations for tire recyclers such as Mid-South that hope to obtain contracts with the districts.

"We have our sights set on being the first permitted facility," Atha says.

The tire recycling business was in the news late last year following alleged attempts by state Sen. Nick Wilson of Pocahontas to corner the market for Sentry Recycle and Storage of Batesville.

Business By Barge

A recently signed deal with a St. Louis utility increased Mid-South's tire-derived fuel business by 15,000 tons per year. Monthly shipments by barge to St. Louis will begin in May, Atha says.

The contract translates into a demand for 1.5 million recycled tires during the next year. Tire-derived fuel constitutes 85 percent of Mid-South's business.

The contract led to the addition of another shift and the purchase of additional equipment. Next month, at least six people will be hired, bringing total employment to more than 20.

Atha says Mid-South has invested about $250,000 in more efficient equipment.

The company is basing much of its predicted growth on a product known as Rutex. Developed by Atha and Wilhelm Reindel, a professor at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, Rutex is an oil-absorbent material capable of consuming five times its weight in crude oil in less than five minutes. Once Rutex is saturated, the oil can be squeezed out and reclaimed. Rutex can be used as many as 15 times, Atha says.

The patent on Rutex is owned by the University of Minnesota, but Mid-South is one of two dealers nationwide. Atha plans to target emergency response markets for oil cleanups and oil-pit remediation.

Mid-South now processes about 500,000 tires per year and has more than 500 clients. The company is owned by Drew Sheppard, Jim Sheppard, Courtney Sheppard and Atha.

Plans are being developed for a Mid-South plant in Louisiana, according to Atha.

"People from all over are approaching us because they know our track record," he says. "We recycle every part of the tire. We have proven markets for our products. They know we're not going to pile tires up and leave them."
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Title Annotation:Mid-South Reclamation Industries Inc.
Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Apr 27, 1992
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