Rubber Recycling Startup Lehigh Gets Kleiner, Index Backing

What can you do with 6 million scrapped tires? Five-year old Naples, Florida-based startup Lehigh Technologies says that’s the amount of recycled tires they freeze, pulverize and sell back into the market as recycled rubber powder every year. That sizable business is getting interest from new investors — according to Venture Wire (via Pehub) Lehigh now has the backing of the green VCs at Kleiner Perkins and English firm Index Ventures. Pehub says previously the company raised $18 million led by Natural Gas Partners.

Lehigh has already been running a 83,000 square foot manufacturing plant near Atlanta, Georgia, since 2006. That plant can produce 100 million pounds of rubber powder per year. The company is trying to get another plant up and running this year that will produce another 100 million pounds per year; VentureWire says the company turned to Kleiner and Index to scale its manufacturing facilities. We’re waiting to hear back from the company on the details.

In addition to the profits Lehigh and the new investors are betting on, recycling tires has some pretty positive environmental gains, too. Lehigh says around 10 gallons of oil are used to make one tire, but if a tire is just made up by 10 percent of Lehigh’s recycled content, tire makers can save one gallon of oil for every tire produced. The company says that if every tire in the world was produced this way that would save over half a billion gallons of oil every year.

Currently Lehigh says the market for rubber powder is just 15 to 25 million pounds per year, but teh company says that’s only because supply has been so small up until now. The company predicts that the actual untapped market could be 1.7 billion pounds per year in North America and 3.4 billion pounds per year globally. Recycled rubber powder can be used to make new tires, and can also be used in paints, industrials coatings, sealants, plastics and fiberglass.

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