One local company is using a grant to demonstrate rubber doesn't have to be burned to be useful.

One local company is using a grant to demonstrate rubber doesn't have to be burned to be useful.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is providing a $350,000 grant to Jackson Township to award to Liberty Tire Services.

"We're just a pass-through agency," said Township Administrator Mike Lilly said. "Any project has to be sponsored by a local government. ... We're excited to be a partner with Liberty Tire."

Located on a 14-acre site at 3041 Jackson Pike, Liberty Tire is a tire recycling company headquartered in Pittsburgh, and it is expanding its scrap tire processing facility in Jackson Township. The project is expected to create and retain two jobs.

"These grants go out once a year," said Heather Lauer, a spokeswoman with the Ohio EPA. "The grants are to try to help companies get more scrap tires out of the environment and make them more marketable."

The grant is the maximum dollar amount available in the matching-cost program. The total cost of the expansion will be about $800,000, with Liberty Tire investing the rest, said Tim Landers, Liberty Tires general manager.

Landers said Liberty Tire plans to build a "clean wire system," which better separates the metal wire, fiber and rubber in scrap tires, resulting in cleaner, higher quality material that has more marketable uses.

"We'll be able to improve that dramatically," Landers said.

Lower-end uses include rubber as fuel to replace natural gas and coal, as well as subgrade fill in civil engineering projects. Higher-end uses include ground rubber mulch in landscaping projects such as sport fields.

"Ninety-two percent of what we brought in was used for some kind of benefit," Landers said. "Just in Ohio, we have two plants that collect 7.5 million (scrap tires) a year."

The grant also will be used by Liberty Tire to construct a new bagging system for the recovered material. Bagging the material reduces contamination as well as oxygenation.

"It's a much cleaner operation when we bag it," Landers said. "Our target is to get 2,000 pounds in each bag ... which will open up new markets for us."

The project is expected to take about nine months.

Liberty Tire has been in Jackson Township the past 12 years and has received Ohio EPA grants through the township in 2010 and 2012.

"It's been a great partnership," Landers said.

The grants are paid for out of the state's tire disposal fees. Landers said it's a great program that invests money back in the industry and promotes viable projects.

"Ohio by far is a leader," he added. "The state's program has been one of the most effective across the country."

Lauer said not only does tire recycling keep scrap tires out of landfills and transform them into marketable products, it benefits public health because tires with standing water are perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes, especially the kind that carry West Nile Virus.

"It's to everybody's advantage to make sure tires don't have standing water," Lauer said. "Every year, there are more products that come out that use the material. The market for it is expanding every year."