Detroit's reuse economy is turning the city's trash into treasure.

After working in the healthcare industry for 20 years, Audra Carson didn't choose to start a business collecting and recycling illegally dumped tires in Detroit. Carson describes De-tread, the company she conceived in 2009, as choosing her instead.

Carson was originally inspired to do something about cleaning up dumped tires when she started to notice large concentrations of them in the neighborhood she grew up in near Schoolcraft and Wyoming. Tire dumping creates manifold problems: they're a fire hazard, they leech chemicals into the soil, and mosquitos breed in the water that accumulates in the cavities. On top of that, there's a basic social impact associated with living among piles of refuse.

"For the families that live in these conditions, what does it do to these children who feel like this is their lot in life?" Carson says. "It has a negative impact and desensitizes them … They feel like they're supposed to live like this."

De-tread has collected and recycled 9,000 dumped tires since 2012. Carson is currently working on establishing a processing facility to turn them into products ranging from Croc-style shoes to rubberized asphalt. But De-tread is just one of multiple businesses and nonprofits that are part of Detroit's "reuse economy," whose mission is turning the city's trash into treasure.

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Model D
by Patrick Dunn
December 12, 2016

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