Mike Demski didn’t start out in the tire business
or the recycling business. “I have an excavating
company,” he explained, “and we could not find
aggregate.” Demski’s first foray into the rubber
recycling business was when he bought out a small
company, and he followed that purchase with another
when he purchased equipment from a Canadian company
that had gone out of business. That purchase expanded
his rubber processing capabilities five-fold immediately.
“Now I’m a full-fledged recycler,” he said. While
other companies process tires strictly to landfill
them, Demski uses the landfill as the last resort.
He explained that some over-the-road tires can’t
be recycled effectively, and extremely dirty tires
can’t be recycled because it’s not cost-effective
to wash them, but all of those tires still have
to be chopped up before they can be landfilled.
According to Demski, Deerpath Recyclers handles
whole tires “from a loader down to a bicycle” and
that after they’ve done their work, only about
10 percent of what comes in will end up in a landfill.
Material is sold to regrind shops who according
to Demski, “take it down to 180 mesh crumb rubber.”
One of the more interesting uses is for railroad
ties that are guaranteed to last at least 60 years,
compared to the 10-year lifespan of wooden ties.
Demski said that extruding companies and plastics
manufacturers are also very interested in using
recycled rubber. The recycled rubber chips are
used as a filler material at less than half the
cost of plastic filler material. The disadvantage
to using tires is that it turns the finished product
gray or black, which might not be as esthetically
pleasing. But when the end product is something
like the plastic blocks behind highway guardrails,
the color isn’t important.
When Demski decided to use recycled rubber in place
of aggregate as septic chips, he needed to do a
lot of legwork to get the rubber accepted in his
home state of Michigan. It took 2 1/2 years to
get approval, but the advantage of using rubber
chips is that they run about 1/3 the cost of aggregate.
Like many other operations, Demski said the tire
recycling business is affected by the economy.
He explained that when times are bad, people don’t
spend money on new tires, so he doesn’t get as
many used tires coming in. When times are good,
he employs “upward of 20 people” and at one time
he was running two shifts a day. He has trailers
at about 80 accounts where he picks up tires, and
he also accepts tires from the public and from
With two lines running, Deerpath processes about
4,000 tires a day. “We try to do at least a million
tires a year,” Demski said, but 2009 saw only about
3/4 million tires processed.
Things are getting better, though, and Demski is
looking at expanding his tire pickups. He recently
applied for a license to pick up in Ohio, adding
to his business in his home state of Michigan and
neighboring states of Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.
It’s not all about distance, though. “We just purchased
a building across the street,” he said, which almost
doubled his space. He also plans on expanding his
product line by selling rubber buffings. The market
for the railroad tie manufacturers is also expanding,
and Deerpath is expanding along with it. His goal
is to process 2 million tires per year within two
On the fun side, the company is doing some R&D
work alongside another company. The R&D has
been going on for three years, but the payoff will
be huge. “Once it’s perfected,” Demski said, “we
will not make enough product at our plant to fill
the need.” At that point, Deerpath will probably
bring in material from other companies to reprocess
Most of all, though, Demski is happy that he is
able to keep so much material out of landfills,
and instead is “turning it into a product that’s
reusable for the next generation.”