MONTREAL—If one common denominator exists for end-of-life tire management across the globe, it could be this: There is no common denominator.
Each country, as well as in each state in the U.S. and province and territory in Canada, has its own set of regulations that address discarded tires or, in some cases, what to do with stockpiles.
That was the underlying theme during a session at the Rubber Recycling Symposium, held recently in Montreal. The Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, along with Recyc-Quebec, sponsored the biennial symposium, titled Driving Innovation to Drive Markets.
The difference in programs is particularly striking in the U.S., where each state, rather than the federal government, regulates scrap tires. That includes market development, cleaning up stockpiles, developing regulations and initiating and implementing incentive and grant programs. The U.S. generates about 6 million scrap tires annually.
“But the important point to note, unlike many programs, the fees that are collected by the state largely do not fund the actual process and uses of the tires,” said Tracey Norberg, senior vice president and general counsel for the Rubber Manufacturers Association. “That's usually funded as a separate line item collected by the retailer. The regulation set the ground rules, storage requirements and requirements for haulers and process.”
Norberg said some states offer subsidies and grants and enforce the ground rules, while others don't.
“Some states don't do them well, some do them pretty well,” she said. Each state program, Norberg said, is “all over the map.”
For example, Norberg said:
• 37 states have state fees;
• 44 states have regulations on storage and disposal;
• 36 states require haulers to have permits;
• 14 states require financial assurances from haulers;
• 32 states require financial assurance from processors;
• 21 states allow monofills;
• 38 states require tires be cut or shredded to be in a landfill;
• 12 states allow whole tires to be in a landfill.
Norberg highlighted two states that are in different stages of dealing with scrap tires: Colorado and California.
Colorado recently passed legislation to clean up the state's 60 million-plus stockpiled scrap tires. Norberg said the state adopted a tiered approach to dealing with the problem. For every tire sent to a monofill, she said, two have to be recycled. As of 2018, tires no longer can be sent to monofill. In addition, the law set the scrap tire ceiling fee at $1.50 per tire until 2018; that year, the fee is reduced to 55 cents per tire. The law applies to automobile, trailer, truck, motor home and motorcycle tires.
California, meanwhile, is patterning some of its stringent scrap tire program after Ontario, but the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery does not have the authority to legislate the industry.
Tire derived fuel used in cement kilns
According to the RMA, almost 54 percent of all scrap tires were used for tire derived fuel in 2013, while 24 percent were converted to ground rubber. Tires generally are consumed in cement tire kilns, in boilers at pulp and paper facilities, in boilers at electric utilities, or in other industrial boilers.
About 70 million scrap tires are stored in three monofills; one is owned by a cement kiln for TDF and another is owned by a pyrolysis company, according to Norberg.
“These are all beneficial to end-users,” said Norberg, who identified the Southeast as the strongest U.S. market for TDFs.
Norberg said the ground rubber market is also viable for scrap tires. She said playground mulch and molded/extruded goods are the two largest markets for ground rubber, while the sports surface market ranks third.
The industry hoped that the civil engineering market would be the next big thing, but that hasn't been the case. “It continues to be a viable market where they tried it,” she said, “but it's one that's been challenging to see growth in that market.”
The RMA executive said more than half of the 75 million tires still remaining in stockpiles across the U.S. reside in monofills in Colorado. Texas, she said, also has several million tires in stockpiles, but the rest of the country “is looking quite green.”
“Remaining stockpiles are very localized in a limited number of states,” she said.
Canada also has varied scrap tire programs, according to Bob Ferguson, program director for the Canadian Association of Tire Recycling Agencies, or CATRA. He attributed that to the vastness of the country and its scattered population.
“There are many models of a stewardship organization,” he said. “Some are run by the government, some are crown agencies, some are industry-led. It causes programs to be somewhat different.”
He said funding models vary as well.
“Most are paid by retailers, and fees vary,” he said. “For example, fees for Ontario are paid by manufacturers and importers of tires. That adds to the complexity.”
CATRA, which includes all 10 provinces, along with the Yukon Territory, was organized to “enhance the effectiveness of scrap tire diversion and recycling across Canada, through the sharing of information, expertise and resources.” He said fees vary widely across the country.
“Why can't they be the same? Well, for many reasons ... distance traveled, remoteness from the process ... there's quite a variance from province to province,” Ferguson said.
The organization maintains a database for members and other industry stakeholders so that they may share information, debate issues and ideas, and learn from one another.
He said Canada recycles nearly 100 percent of its tires, and that its four-year average is 91 percent. Tire recycling revenue across Canada is $170 million.
“We want to track tires and tire-derived products right for the entire life cycle,” Ferguson said, “from the time they become used to the time they become marketable, saleable products.”
Europe experiences many of the same issues, according to Jean-Pierre Taverne, technical coordinator, end of life tires, for the European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers' Association. He noted that a European Union directive enacted in 1999 prohibits whole and shredded tires from entering landfills, as of 2006.
He said different regulations are used across Europe.
“The complexity for our organization can be difficult,” Taverne said. “Some of the regulations we have aren't being enforced. We need strengthened enforcement from authorities.”