Recalled tires are unlikely to affect local landfills
Can local governments expect a spike in illegally dumped and landfilled tires as a result of last summer’s Firestone recall? No, according to the Scrap Tire Management Council (STMC), an affiliate of the Washington, D.C.-based Rubber Manufacturers Association. The manufacturer’s efforts to track and recover the 6.5 million Radial ATX, Radial ATX II and Wilderness AT tires will help ensure that relatively few end up in the municipal solid waste stream.
“Around 270 million tires are discarded annually, so [the recalled tires] do not represent an immense increase in total volume,” says John Serumgard, STMC’s executive vice president. “For the most part, they are not discarded as part of the municipal solid waste stream; instead, they are handled by a network of collectors, haulers, processors and users.”
According to USEPA, as recently as 1995, approximately 30 percent of scrap tires were being landfilled, stockpiled or illegally dumped each year. The majority, however, were being recycled as fuel, and the remainder were being recycled primarily for civil engineering applications or processed into crumb rubber or chips.
As part of its recall, Bridgestone/Firestone has set up procedures for recovery of the tires. “They want them back,” Suremgard explains. “They don’t want them getting into the used tire market.”
The company has instructed retailers that replace the tires to drill or slash them, and it has offered financial incentives to encourage used tire retailers to shred or return any of the recalled tires that end up in their possession. The company also has contracted for collection and processing of the tires.
In keeping with the company’s recycling policies, many of the tires are being used as fuel. Some are being recycled into additives for asphalt and cement, or into floor mats, soaker hoses and molded rubber products; and others are being shredded and used as lightweight thermal insulation or stabilizing material for construction and drainage.
Houston-based Waste Management is one of many end-users for the recycled tires. Last November, the company took delivery of approximately 5,000 tons of chipped recalls (the equivalent of 500,000 tires) at its Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility in Louisville, Ky.
The Outer Loop facility is the site of research and development projects that are conducted in concert with USEPA. The three-inch by three-inch chips, produced by Grove City, Ohio-based Central Ohio Contractors, are being used as distribution media for liquid and/or gas in two bioreactors, and as an interface between compost and soil in a biocap project.
“We planned on using tire chips for our bioreactor projects, so, when we received a call from COC wanting to know if we could use some chips, we said, ‘We’ll take them all,’” says Richard Barr, district manager of the Outer Loop facility. “They thought we were joking.” The facility is awaiting arrival of additional chips — up to 6,000 tons — and plans to use part of them in the first lift of a new cell. (By using chips, the operators will be able to reduce the non-compacted trash layer from 10 feet to five feet.)