Scrap tires now have one of the highest recycling rates of any recyclable material, according to speakers at the Clemson University Tire Industry Conference, held March 5-7 in Hilton Head. Still, some states lag behind others in scrap tire recycling programs, and prejudice reigns against several scrap tire applications. This makes it all the more necessary to push recycling efforts, the speakers said.
Utilization figures provided by John Serumgard, chairman of the Scrap Tire Management Council, and Mary Sikora, editor of ``Scrap Tire News,'' did not always agree.
Sikora said 300 million scrap tires are generated each year; Serumgard's figure was 253 million. Of those tires, Sikora said, about 60 percent find their way to some sort of reuse; Serumgard said the recycling figure was 69 percent in 1995 and probably will exceed 75 percent in 1996 when final data are tallied.
``This exceeds the rate of reuse for plastics, glass or paper,'' Serumgard said.
The 1996 expectations are impressive when considering the recycling rate for scrap tires in 1990 was only 11 percent, he said, adding the current rate still is not enough.
``While progress has been made, it certainly isn't uniform,'' he said. ``Illinois is now a net importer of scrap tires; West Virginia, on the other hand, continues to flounder.''
Public opposition toward tire-derived fuel, the most prominent use for scrap tires, is a major part of the problem, according to Serumgard.
``Early on, it was easy to get approval for a TDF program,'' he said. ``But opposition has become increasingly organized, particularly by the Sierra Club on the West Coast.
``In virtually every application so far, TDF has reduced emissions,'' Serumgard said. ``But there is a continuing public perception that TDF means air toxics and black smoke.''
Serumgard and Sikora covered many of the same points: the continuing opposition toward TDF; the proliferation of crumb rubber suppliers beyond what the market will support; the blow dealt to civil engineering applications when two rubber-filled roadbeds in Washington State combusted; and the efforts of the American Society for Testing and Materials to develop quality standards for TDF and crumb rubber.
``ASTM standards can't come soon enough for the industry,'' Sikora said. ``But some say standards which don't allow for variables might actually restrict the use of TDF.''
Last year brought some promising developments to scrap tire recyclers, according to Sikora.
One was ``Recyclenet,'' a Canadian web site which Trash Depot of Moorhead, Minn., already has used to identify 27 potential crumb rubber customers. Another was the development of an investment fund solely for recycling businesses.
``Tire recycling on the whole is now mainstream,'' she said. ``Forty-eight states now have some scrap tire regulations in place. Industry groups are forging ahead to provide leadership, and growth activity in tire recycling has increased, although individuals in the business have to be well funded.''