Manuel Álvarez and his daughters, Olga and Dulce. Manuel Álvarez and his daughters, Olga and Dulce.

Tire recycler moves beyond footwear

Family business expands from making huarache soles to waterproofing products

What to do with thousands of old, used tires? For a family-run business in México state, the latest answer is to use them to make a waterproofing product.

For 40 years, the Álvarez family business produced footwear using old tires for soles in their Ecatepec plant. With a new generation came new ideas, and in 2016 the Álvarez sisters, Dulce and Olga, communications and marketing professionals respectively, decided to put their raw material to other uses.

The sisters decided to invest in machinery that could use the discarded rubber to create environmentally friendly products.

Under the brand Granutec, the Álvarez family now has a tire collection center with a storage capacity of 400 tonnes. The tires are channeled three ways: some are ground to a fine dust, others are refurbished and sold as second-hand tires and the rest continue to be used in the family’s traditional footwear business.

It’s the fine dust that forms the main ingredient in Granutec’s own brand of waterproofing products, but the firm also plans to produce an all-weather synthetic surface material for running tracks and special flooring for daycare centers.

Just one year after the Álvarez sisters implemented their plan, Granutec’s foray into the market for environmentally friendly products earned it a place among the 40 best green projects in Mexico, as selected by the Mexico Cleantech Challenge.

Also last year the firm won third place in the 2017 Citibanamex prize for having the largest social impact. Granutec earned a 50,000-peso (US $2,660) sponsorship, which it invested in marketing.

Plans for the future include installing a second plant in the northern state of Sonora, said Dulce Álvarez.

“We’re happy that we’re improving the environment by collecting tires. The road can be hard at times, but we’re motivated by demonstrating that there are entrepreneurship opportunities in the clean technologies market in Mexico, which can be profitable and have a positive impact,” the sisters said.

Estimates suggest that at least 30 million tires are discarded annually in Mexico.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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