How The United States Is Dealing With Scrap Tire Waste

How The United States Is Dealing With Scrap Tire Waste

Scrap tires are a major type of consumer and industrial waste that is a concern in most industrialized nations around the world. Millions of tires are discarded every single year. The problem of scrap tires in the United States is regulated on a local level by individual states instead of the federal government. Almost every state has enacted some form of legislation dealing with the problem of scrap tires. There is no single solution for the problem although most programs are focused on recycling, reuse and reducing existing stockpiles.

Risks From Stockpiles
Stockpiles of scrap tires in the United States formed over the course of several decades before first being addressed by individual states in 1985. Stockpiles are just large mounds or fields that are formed exclusively of scrap tires. A stockpile in a certain climate has the potential to release harmful chemicals into ground water and surface water over the course of many years that can harm wildlife and make people sick. The stockpiles are also a breeding ground for rats and mosquitoes that carry diseases. A major concern with stockpiles is the risk of a fire that could reduce air quality in an area and spread quickly through a city or town.

State Solutions
Individual states have enacted a variety of solutions. Some states have made it illegal to create new tire stockpiles and require existing stockpiles to register with the government and pay taxes until a full abatement has been performed. Other states shift funds and actively attempt to remove stockpiles at no cost to businesses. A handful of states have enacted strict regulations resulting in regular inspections, fines and abatement assistance programs for businesses that need help dealing with the tires. Nearly all states are providing some incentive to solid waste processors or other industrial processing facilities so that they will take an active part in processing the scrap tires once they have been removed.

Recycling Solutions
The durability and chemical content of scrap tires means that there are very few effective recycling processes for the material. Most recycling starts with the use tire shredders. These machines tear apart the rubber until it has been reduced to a smaller and more manageable size. Most of what is produced is known as shred. The remaining smaller pieces are called crumbs. The shredded tires are sent to a variety of different industrial locations where they are incorporated into other products or used for construction.

Uses For Scrap Tire Shreds And Crumbs
The rubber flakes and crumbs that are produced by tire shreddershave a wide range of uses. The material is often used as an aggregate in concrete and asphalt. The crumbs can be incorporated with other types of rubber or plastic to create flexible mats that are appropriate for garden edging or indoor flooring. Many recycled rubber consumer products use scrap tires. A growing percentage of scrap tire shreds are being burned to create fuel or to power fires at industrial facilities. The legislation that exists in each state has helped to create business-to-business financial incentives to deal with scrap tires. Businesses receive tax breaks for processing. Consumers and businesses could also receive discounts when purchasing products made from recycled scrap tire rubber.

Ken W is an environmentalist who puts great efforts into steering polictical efforts to establish sustainable industrial waste management standards for businesses.

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