Good for business, great for Mother Earth

New system provides Midlothian Cement with alternative fuel source that conserves natural resources and drives profit

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the United States produces millions of discarded tires each year – about 290 million to be specific.

A conveyor moves shredded tire chips to the Midlothian Cement Plant.

Besides being an eyesore, they're a fire hazard and, once they capture rainwater, become an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes that eventually spread disease.

But what if we could take millions of discarded tires out of the equation while finding an environmentally friendly purpose for them? That’s exactly what’s happening at the Midlothian Cement Plant just south of Dallas.

“I’m truly excited about this because I love the environment and want my family – especially my two young daughters – to enjoy it as I have,” says Midlothian Plant Manager Ricardo Del Valle Favela. “Our new system is a true win-win. We win as a company. The environment wins. And our state and federal environmental agencies have been completely supportive.”

Since 2008, Midlothian has used a mixture of fuel sources, including whole tires, to power its cement production, says Vice President of Cement Operations Alan Rowley. Recently, the team added a new system to its operation that shreds whole tires. Rowley says the development is allowing the plant to produce an alternative fuel source that is equally as efficient as its traditional competitors.

“Tires are an engineered product made of highly refined rubber, and that is what’s really important to us when we think of them as an alternative fuel,” he says. “That rubber offers a high heat value. It’s as uniform as natural gas and, in our kiln system, more uniform than coal.”

The change means Midlothian is consuming more tires than ever before, a fact the division’s Director of Environmental Services Michael Meinen and other environmental professionals truly appreciate.

Tires moves into the new shredding system.

“While this system is certainly helping us minimize our dependence on fossil fuels, it’s also helping the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ),” Meinen says. “Managing the tires discarded across the state is a challenge for the TCEQ, so they’re constantly seeking safe and efficient recycling methods.”

According to Rowley’s research, more than 16 million of those 290 million annually discarded tires are found in Texas. With the new shredding system in place, Midlothian is now positioned to use about 16,000 of those tires each day. Combine that figure with the shredded tires the site already purchases separately and the impact expands greatly; Rowley said the plant set a record in August when it consumed 45,000 tires in a single day.

Run those numbers across an entire year and they become astounding. On an annual basis, Martin Marietta can now take millions of discarded tires out of the environment while drastically reducing the potential for dangerous fires and the risks for mosquito-borne illnesses.