Dmitri Izosimov | Dreamstime

Michigan paving projects repurpose rubber tire scrap

The repaving in the state’s Bay and Clare counties have used material from about 59,500 tires on more than 5.5 miles of roadway.

Recent paving projects backed by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) in Bay and Clare counties have expanded Michigan’s use of rubber tire scrap in road resurfacing, keeping the materials out of landfills.

The projects also highlight a Michigan recycling milestone, according to a press release from EGLE: As of this year, the state’s major scrap tire processing businesses–about 10 in all–no longer send any regular scrap materials to landfills. Apart from small quantities that are too dirty or contaminated, all the material is recovered and repurposed for use in road work, as mulch, in rain gardens and septic fields, as weights for construction barrels and silage covers, in molded and extruded plastic products, as porous pavement for trails and pathways, as tire-derived fuel, as recycled metal from tires’ steel belts and more.

“The scrap tire market in Michigan is in a transformation from managing scrap tires as a waste to creating economic value,” says Kirsten Clemens, scrap tire coordinator in EGLE’s materials management division.

The repaving in Bay and Clare counties used material from about 59,500 tires on more than 5.5miles of roadway, EGLE says. EGLE awarded Michigan Technological University a $396,000 grant for project design and testing. Each county’s road commission performed the paving work, resurfacing 4.5 miles of Seven Mile Road from E. Midland Road to E. Beaver Road in Bay County and 1.15 miles of W. Haskell Lake Road from Cook Avenue to Lake Station Avenue in Clare County. At both locations, the repaving was divided into sections to enable side-by-side comparison of the rubberized and conventional paving materials.

Last year, four Michigan counties implemented rubberized local road projects using scrap from more than 30,000 tires. As far back as 2005 and 2006, Saginaw County rolled out a pair of 2-mile sections of rubberized asphalt. The Michigan Department of Transportation allows a portion of asphalt mixes to be recycled materials, but it is not required.

“We have about 20 years of projects, and we’ve got some really solid technology now,” Clemens says. “What we’re trying to do is expand the use by getting the material into the communities that need infrastructure solutions.”

In 2019, EGLE helped fund a Michigan Tech project in Dickinson County to see how an asphalt-rubber mix would hold up to extreme Upper Peninsula weather. A study two years later found the pavement resists rutting during hot weather and cracking in the cold, EGLE says. Researchers will continue monitoring the project–which won a 2019 County Road Association of Michigan award–for 10 or more years.