A Remarkable Recycled Solution

Eco-Flex

Old, discarded tires have been clogging Canadian landfills for decades. In 1992, Alan Champagne decided it was time to do something about it. He rolled up his sleeves and launched Eco-Flex Recycled Rubber Solutions – a company that only sells products made from 100 percent recycled automotive tires.

“The concept behind the brand is offering a superior, more durable product while also benefiting the environment,” explains Kelsey Jackson, a marketing and sales representative for Eco-Flex. A great idea quickly grew into a booming business, and Eco-Flex is now an industry leader whose high value, end use, recycled rubber products are sold throughout Canada and around the world.

Eco-Flex provides a range of innovative solutions for the industrial, municipal, commercial, agricultural and residential sectors. Rubber sidewalks and pavers are two of the company’s signature products; Eco-Flex’s Multi-Brick 4’ x 5’ Sidewalk Paver, used to replace concrete city sidewalks, is particularly popular. The rubber tiles have an overlap linking feature, which creates a seamless appearance, and are available in a variety of different colors to improve the aesthetics of the community. One of the product’s most valuable features is the fact that the pavers can be easily lifted and re-installed without damage in order to repair underground services, unlike traditional concrete sidewalks which must be torn out to allow underground access and then rebuilt.

Another popular Eco-Flex product is the Yukon Rubber Rig Mat, which is designed for the oil and pipeline industry. This extremely heavy duty mat competes with current wood and steel rig matting systems for many applications including temporary or permanent road access solutions.

In total, Eco-Flex boasts over forty unique products. Until last year, all of them were produced 30 minutes north of Edmonton, Alberta in the company’s state of the art, 35,000 foot manufacturing facility. In 2012, the team expanded operations to Rockwood, Ontario, where they opened a second manufacturing plant to produce select products. Products manufactured at either plant are made solely from inter-provincial tires, an adhesive binding agent and, if the customer prefers, a special oxide for added color on select products. All tire material comes from within the province of production, although the team is planning to begin outsourcing raw material in the near future due to increasing consumer demand.

The Eco-Flex manufacturing process begins by breaking down components in the tires in order to separate the rubber. This involves a shredding process in which each tire is broken down into smaller pieces, eventually exposing the wire and cords embedded inside. These pieces must be ground into smaller and smaller fragments to ensure that all of the metal fibres are separated from the rubber crumb material. Once the shredding is complete, only the fine rubber crumb material remains, which is what Eco-Flex uses to create its products. (All of the metal wires and fibres are recycled as scrap metal.) Once it is completely separated, the crumb material is pre-mixed with adhesive and colorant and poured into one of Eco-Flex’s many proprietary mouldings. Next, the moulds are compressed using press machinery, and the transformation processes from discarded tire to new product is complete.

Eco-Flex’s manufacturing process, and the resulting product, is clearly innovative and ecofriendly. “The major benefit our product has on the environment is the full circle recycling process,” Kelsey points out. “Our manufacturing procedures ensure tires are eliminated from landfills, recycled properly to extract all components, and the tire crumb product is put to use in offering a high quality, durable, recycled rubber product.” In fact, Eco-Flex has been recycling between two and three million automotive passenger tires a year since its inception in 1992. That adds up to over 50 million recycled tires in all in just Alberta alone.

Eco-Flex’s products offer many other benefits as well. For one, the recycled rubber is incredibly resilient, so all of the company’s products are very long-lasting. “Eco-Flex is a superior solution over conventional products due to its longevity,” Kelsey explains. This is because Eco-Flex products retain the durability of the tires from which they are made. “Other than going flat, which Eco-Flex products cannot physically do, a car tire never disintegrates and is durable through all weather and climate conditions and last for years without breaking down,” the company website points out. “The same applies to our Eco-Flex products.” Rubber does not crack or chip when the temperature fluctuates, making Eco-Flex products ideal for nearly every climate. Nor is the surface of the product easily marked. Even spray paint can be power washed from an Eco-Flex paver, due to the density of the rubber surface. This density also makes it difficult to knick the surface with a sharp object. Sticky substances such as gum are also no match for Eco-Flex sidewalks, because the non-porous rubber surface repels them. All Eco-Flex products are also fire rated and will not ignite on the surface.

Utilizing all of these benefits is easy; installing an Eco-Flex product is simple and straightforward. The required sub grade is the same as for interlocking brick, asphalt, or concrete, and no specialized treatment is needed. Furthermore, many of the company’s products are produced in full sheet tiles rather than as individual pavers, slashing the installation time. “The installation time for a four person crew on 10,000 square feet of brick paver is approximately two to three weeks. The installation time for a four person crew on 10,000 square feet of our multi-access product is two to three days.” And, once installed, access is immediate – unlike concrete, Eco-Flex surfaces do not need time to dry.

There is also no need for additional materials or steps. For example, Eco-Flex surfaces do not require sand to fill the gaps as traditional brick pavers do. In fact, many of the company’s products do not require any filling materials between seams due to their proprietary interlocking design, which fits tightly in all directions and prevents any lateral separation. As a result, the product will remain firmly in place without any fastening devices or adhesives. This tight fit also prevents weed growth, which often appears in the gaps between traditional pavers. Eco-Flex does recommend using adhesives when installing the company’s under/overlap link system tiles to prevent expansion, contraction, and movement, however. Resurfacing tiles, which cover existing wood or concrete, must also be glued down.

Individual bricks and large format tiles range in size from nine square feet per unit to 112 square feet per unit, and prices range from $4.50 to $10.00 per square foot. An interlocking brick paver will come in around $6.00 per square foot, while multi-access products might run to $8.00 per square foot. The company is quick to point out that much of this cost is offset by the product’s rapid installation; labour costs are drastically reduced, additional installation materials such as sand and glue may not be needed, and if the layout needs to be adjusted after installation has begun, the product can quickly and easily be adjusted without any financial loss.

Indeed, Eco-Flex offers a remarkable solution for a multitude of industries. By purchasing Eco-Flex products, customers contribute to the recycling of waste, enjoy the benefits of a sturdy, durable material, and dramatically reduce installation time. It is a win-win situation that more and more consumers are utilizing. And, the team is eager to increase the availability of its innovative product even more. “Eco-Flex is currently licensing out the brand technology,” explains Kelsey, “and is searching for the right manufacturing partners to help us expand into several provinces, states and countries around the world.”

December 14, 2017, 10:10 AM EST