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Used tires recycle into hearty paving

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POLSON — It may look like asphalt, but the material recently poured at the intersection of Mud Lake Trail and Highway 93 is made of recycled tires — and that makes Vern Reum pretty excited.

“I’m always trying to find things for recycling tires,” said Reum, owner of Tire Depot in Polson.

Flexi-Pave was created in 2001 by K.B. Industries, an international company based out of Florida. It uses three tires for every 10 square feet of material installed. That means an average parking space uses 60 old tires that previously may have been shredded and buried.

The flexible, porous paving material doesn’t crack or settle, and allows large amounts of water to flow through its surface, which helps control erosion. It also has cleansing properties that reduce dissolved nitrates and phosphates by as much 88 percent.

“Several years ago we found out it was growing biofilm, a (good) bacteria that dissolves nitrates and phosphorous from pesticides, water that causes algae blooms,” Kevin Bagnall, founder and CEO of K.B. Industries said. “We are the first passive storm water nutrient removal system.”

That’s why it’s great for communities that don’t want toxic substances to leach into their ground water, according to Reum.

Although it looks similar, Flexi-Pave is not the same cushiony rubber material found in playgrounds and school tracks. It’s hard, yet doesn’t crack, bend or break. Its strength is suitable for roads, sidewalks, driveways, boat ramps — and filling potholes.

“And it’s considerably warmer, for melting ice way quicker,” Reum explained.

The material paves the visitor area surrounding Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park and is used exclusively in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D. C. plus many locations worldwide.

Another benefit is that Flexi-Pave reduces maintenance expenses and lowers liability risks because it stays smooth on walkways.

“It hits all the buttons, if you know what I am saying,” Bagnall said. “It’s really proven and tested.”

Reum recently invited representatives from Lake County and the Montana Department of Transportation to view a paving demonstration in hopes the entities will recognize the benefits of Flexi-Pave and consider using it for potholes, walking paths, and other small projects.

“If they used Flexi-Pave for pothole repair it would outlast the road around it. It’s something the state and county really should start using on a regular basis,” Reum said. “Most federal agencies are using it, but counties and states are on strict budget.” 

Flexi Pave is twice as expensive as asphalt.

“But it lasts at least twice as long,” Reum countered. 

One concern of county officials and other local road crews is the time it takes to prep and fill the pothole.

“It’s pretty labor intensive,” Lake County Commissioner Gale Decker said. While the county may not be sold on it at this point, Decker said if it proves to last a lot longer than their cold and hot asphalt patches the county currently uses, “we’d certainly be willing to take another look at it” in the future. 

“It’s intriguing,” Decker said. “All those old used tires have to go somewhere.”

Reum hopes the Flexi-Pave poured on the corner of Highway 93 and Mud Lake Trail will prove his point over time.


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