ATLANTA—Seven years ago, Georgia initiated a Scrap Tire Program to clean up 12 million tires in dumps across the state. Today, it has a growing end-use market for recycled tires, a mark of the program's success.
``Like many environmental issues, something is done only after a catastrophe,'' said Charles McDaniel, an environmental specialist with the Scrap Tire Program, which is under the aegis of the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
``In this case, it was mainly the fire,'' McDaniel said, referring to a 1992 incident in which a stockpile of about 1.7 million tires in Palmetto, Ga., caught fire, burned for more than two months, took years to clean up and cost taxpayers $6 million.
Now, with the STP's initiation of three-year contracts with recycling companies for abatement cleanup work, new markets have opened for crumb rubber, tire-derived fuel and septic chips.
Knight's Concrete in Covington, Ga., a manufacturer of concrete septic tank systems, has been buying tire chips from GreenMan Technologies Inc. for more than two years.
Using tire chips instead of gravel in septic tanks is a growing trend, said Knight's co-owner Susan Wilbanks.
``Tire chips are easier on the equipment and easier on the backs of the installer. For one job, it might be 15 tons of tire chips vs. 50 tons of gravel,'' she said. ``The installer charges more for gravel because it's harder to install and, for the homeowner, the quality of tire chips is just as good.''
GreenMan gets the tires, processes them and ships them to end-users. ``Two-thirds of our end-use market is civil engineering, one-third for tire-derived fuel,'' said James Maust, GreenMan vice president of Southeast Operations.
Knight's Concrete is one of GreenMan's largest civil engineering customers. Others, such as paper mills and powder plants, burn whole passenger tires for fuel in the process of making their products.
GreenMan Technologies has been in Georgia since 1991, serving the southeastern states, and has grown its business on the collection of current generation tires, Maust said. Recently it completed the cleanup of a scrap tire pile of nearly 1 million tires in Roberta, Ga. In May, it began cleanup of another major pile of nearly 1.35 million tires in Liberty County, near Savannah, Ga.
The Georgia plant, which operates in a 65,000-sq.-ft. facility on 23 acres, originated in 1986 as the family-owned Maust Tire Recyclers Inc. in Minnesota and now has plants throughout the country.
Once the Liberty County stockpile is removed, the Scrap Tire Program will have cleaned up and recycled the 12 million tires it sought to eliminate.
But state officials are anxious to ensure that the 7 million scrap tires generated annually in Georgia are collected and diverted from landfills and then reused or recycled. They expect the growing end-use market to be a significant factor in ensuring the continued success of the Scrap Tire Program.