We are firm believers in the power of positive news and its ability to uplift communities. That’s why we developed the Circularity in Memphis series as part of Memphis Transformed’s campaign efforts. Through this series, we spotlight local examples of circular economy in Memphis and highlight organizations that make significant contributions to waste reduction in their communities. We hope their stories inspire our readers to take action. This series is written by Ashley Davis of Kifani Press.

We’ve all seen them: disposed tires littering the side of the roads or highways in Shelby County. Illegal tire dumping is a problem for the city, but Memphis Tire Recyclers is working to be a part of the solution with one of two permitted and approved tire recycling facilities in Tennessee. Tire blight has long plagued the city of Memphis. Tires are big, heavy and often expensive to recycle. A recent clean-up effort along North Highland Street recovered more than a thousand tires from the banks of the Wolf River.  Tires cannot go to landfills. So, businesses and individuals have to take extra steps to legally and ethically recycle them.  

David Burgess is the Chief Operating Owner of Memphis Tire Recycling. He says there are multiple barriers to tire recycling, especially for disenfranchised communities. Tire dumping happens because it’s financial. Every tire that is taken off a vehicle has a disposal fee. So, you have to pay for the disposal of those tires — whether one, four, or 18 for those 18-wheelers,” said Burgess. “Tire dumping is also sometimes inconvenient and difficult,” he added. “So, we stepped in and tried to simplify that process.”  

Burgess and Corteney Mack founded Memphis Tire Recycling (MTR) in 2021 and fully launched in 2022. It is one of the only facilities in the city working to take on tire recycling.  
The company collects and remediates tires for a fee. Customers can also pay to drop off tires between 7:00 am – 4:00 pm Monday through Friday at their facility at 1566 Havana Street.  In just one year of operation, MTR has recycled more than 50,000 tires. The facility then processes them into tire-derived aggregate (TDA), tire-derived fuel (TDF), and crumb rubber. These materials can be used to pave roads, mulch playgrounds or even be burned as fuel.  The recycled materials can also go back into producing new tires.  

Mack, the Chief Business Owner for MTR, said that diverting these tires not only helps to eliminate blight but also reduces the number of rubber trees needed to make new tires. We’re helping create a whole circular ecosystem,” Mack said. The company recently received a federal grant that will help it invest in better equipment and create more jobs in the local economy. Tire recycling is labor intensive –  with tires weighing anywhere from 25 to 150 pounds. Burgess and Mack said the equipment will help make the job easier and safer for their employees. They also will be able to expand their operations, create more jobs, and give even more tires a new life.


“We have the business. We have the tools. We have the facility. We’ve got the infrastructure to take on a lot more and be a much bigger solution than we are now,” said Burgess.  They bring their work in tire recycling to a national scale. “We want to be one of the major players in the industry as far as all things tire recycling,” Mack said. 

By partnering with businesses and neighborhood associations, MTR hopes to educate the community about tire recycling and how it impacts the community.  “Every city’s two biggest issues are crime and blight,” Mack said. “A good majority of the blight here is tires. If we can help to eliminate tire blight, we are one step closer to building up our city to where it needs to be.”   

Burgess said that businesses and communities have to step up by disposing of tires the right way and reporting illegal dumping. “We only have one environment,” Burgess said. “So, we have to do our part to make it more sustainable.” 

Want to learn more about Memphis Tire Recycling or how you can get involved? Visit https://memphistires.org.