Unique Project Turns Tires Into Building Materials

Wren Sleyster, owner of Avenue Auto Wrecking, reuses his leftover tires to make 13,000-pound fencing blocks.


Wren Sleyster of Avenue Auto Wrecking in Kansas City, Mo. (, has found an innovative way to protect his auto recycling facility, as well as the environment.

Sleyster uses recycled tires and concrete to create massive building blocks. He has used the blocks to build a 78-foot loading dock as well as a 1,500-foot-long security wall at Avenue Auto Wrecking, since beginning this unique project in 2005. “We’re doing a lot here,” Sleyster admitted. “We’re recycling tires and we’re recycling leftover concrete that usually gets left on the ground.”

Sleyster developed the idea for the blocks when he was faced with an overabundance of tires and was tired of paying fees to have them hauled away. After about a year of careful research, Sleyster was able to obtain a $50,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to begin the project. “The research was a lot of work,” he said. “I really had to get all of my ducks in a row, but I’ve had really good help from the state.”

While researching, Sleyster found just two businesses in the nation that used the type of blocks he had in mind. One was a racetrack in Colorado that used the blocks as a sound barrier; the other was Bert’s Auto Salvage in Hermiston, Ore. ( Bert’s owner, Mike Monroe, sold Sleyster the horizontal tire baler needed to make the blocks. The machine originally came from Canada, as such machines are rare in the United States, Sleyster explained.

Each four-foot by eight-foot block contains about 120 tires , enough to fill three full-sized pickup trucks. The blockmaking process begins with the tires being compressed into a 2,000-pound bale. Sleyster said the baler needs to be loaded about five times during the compression process. “It’s a slow, tedious deal,” he said.

Next, the tires are encased in wet concrete inside a form. Sleyster has arrangements with several concrete companies that will donate leftovers they can’t use. Each block uses about two and a half yards of concrete. Sleyster said it takes about two hours to make eight blocks.

“We let them cure,” explained Sleyster, “and the next day they are ready to be extracted.”

A completed block weighs about 13,000 pounds, but a solid concrete block of the same size would weigh around 30,000 pounds, Sleyster stated.

“That is just way too much weight for me,” he laughed. “Still, the wall we’ve built is a privacy fence and a security fence that nobody will ever be able to get through.”

The security wall at Avenue Auto Wrecking is about 90 percent complete, and Sleyster plans to begin a second wall in the back of the property. By 2014, he hopes to be able to build smaller blocks that are four-by-four feet.

The blocks may be a new idea, but Sleyster is hardly a newcomer to the industry. His grandfather, Skip Sleyster, purchased Avenue Auto Wrecking in 1955 and was known as “the Junk King of Kansas City” for a time. A fire forced the business to close in 1975, but Wren reopened it in 1991. Today it specializes in European vehicles.

“I cleaned it up and reopened,” he said, “and we’ve been going ever since.”


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