What are the Issues?
The U.S. generates approximately 300 million scrap tires each year. It is also estimated that at least 265 million of them lie in stockpiles across the country. Markets exist for approximately 85% of scrap tires, such as tire derived fuel, civil engineering applications, and crumb rubber products, and more states are adding specifications for use of crumb rubber in highway asphalt. Thanks to scrap tire management fees imposed by many states, scrap tire stockpiles in the United States have diminished to just one-tenth what they were in the early 1990's. However, tire management fees in many states are due to sunset in the near future, leading to concerns over the future of funding for tire cleanup efforts.
Scrap tires are a bulky nuisance when disposed in a landfill. Whole tires compressed near the surface of a landfill have a tendency to bounce back to their original shape, often appearing to “float” to the surface. Scrap tires also create environmental threats and serious health hazards when they are improperly stored. A tire’s cylindrical shape allows rainwater to collect inside it, creating a prime breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes and rodents. Furthermore, tire stockpiles also retain heat, making them prone to spontaneous combustion. Voluntary product stewardship efforts of companies like Bridgestone, which, in 2012, began recycling one tire for every Bridgestone tire sold in the U.S. through its One Team, One Planet program, aim to prevent these threats by ensuring that scrap tires are captured and sent to another valuable use.
What is PSI Doing to Help?
PSI has been exploring opportunities for reducing impacts from tires along the entire product life cycle, including “front-end” solutions (e.g., the use of tires with longer operational life) and those at a product’s “end of life” (e.g., developing new or expanding existing end-use applications, for the last ten years. Highlights include:
PSI is currently working with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on a strategy to develop a system to recover tires with the goals of maximizing tire recycling in the state, decreasing illegal dumping, and creating employment. This approach will involve holding a stakeholder dialogue meeting and developing a product stewardship action plan which identifies tire stewardship goals and barriers to achieving those goals. As part of this work, PSI intends to collaborate with government officials, manufacturers, retailers, and other key stakeholders to develop potential strategies for Connecticut and other states.
With funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), PSI led an outreach and education project in rural areas of Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas to increase collection of tires and other products through manufacturer-funded programs. As part of this project, PSI promoted Bridgestone’s One Team, One Planet program to rural communities, leading to projected savings of at least $18,000 in tire cleanup costs for local governments in 2014. If communities from coast to coast took advantage of this industry-funded program, they could save a collective $39 million annually.
The Product Stewardship Institute was commissioned by the California Integrated Waste Management Board to engage key stakeholders involved in the manufacture, sale, regulation, use, recycling, and disposal of tires to find solutions that would ultimately result in the reduction of tires disposal in landfills. This project commenced in January 2004 with stakeholder interviews and research that led to a Tire Stewardship Action Plan, which outlined the problem, project goals, key issues, and potential solutions. The draft Action Plan formed the basis for a one-day stakeholder meeting in July 2004. At the meeting, participants discussed possible methods for reducing environmental impacts along their entire life cycle, including front-end and end of life solutions. PSI used notes from the meeting to inform an updated Action Plan, which was finalized in July 2005.
To view existing product stewardship in the U.S., visit our Map of State EPR Laws page. To view pending and active legislation in the U.S.—privileged content available exclusively to PSI Members and Partners—login here.
For more information, please contact Suna Bayrakal at (617) 671-0616.