The annual tire war returns to the Midstate

NEWPORT, Pa. (WTHM) – An annual competition is rolling ahead this weekend; a contest between four Midstate counties to improve the environment.

“I just don’t know why the people want to throw their trash along the road,” Butch Turnbaugh said as he drove around Perry County.

When it comes to streets around Oliver Township, Turnbaugh cleans up.

“I pick up bicycles,” he said, “you name it.” Wednesday, the township’s roadmaster was on the hunt.

“Right now we’re looking for a car tire.”

These are part of Turnbaugh’s duties, trekking into ditches and woods looking for discarded tires. For at least the last several, he’s had some help around the county.

“You say tire recycling challenge and people are like, ‘Eh, that’s boring’,” Kristie Smith said. “When you say tire war and people are like, ‘Yeah? What?'”

Smith is the Perry County Conservation District‘s watershed specialist. This Saturday, she said, starts her first tire war as cleaner-in-chief.

“We are going to be tired that day,” she said (pun possibly intended).

From 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Perry County will collect tires at the Oliver Township Building for a fee. Normal car tires cost $1 to recycle, bigger truck tires are $5, and tractor tires are $10 apiece.

Smith and Perry County will compete with Juniata, Mifflin, and Huntingdon counties in the tire war. Whoever brings the most rubber to Mahantango Enterprises, a rubber recycler in Liverpool, wins the Gold Rim Award from Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

Last year, Perry participants brought in more than 1,200 tires for a total of nearly 19.73 tons of rubber. They didn’t win and haven’t for a few years, but Smith hopes this year they bring back the gold.

“Just from people calling ahead and warning us about how many they’re bringing,” she said, they expect “upwards of 850 to 1,000” tires before they start collecting from the general public.

“The counties do a really nice job of trying to get tires that may end up in creeks and rivers and down over the banks, and we’re able to bring those tires in and totally recycle them,” said Troy Hess, Mahantango’s vice president.

The company collects from all four counties and turns the rubber into things like play mats and rubber pellets for artificial turf.

That’s far better than the alternative for Turnbaugh.

“If they don’t have something like that,” he said, “they’re going to be all over the roads again, down over the banks.”

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