Once there were 3 billion. Or was it 1 billion. Or 800 million.
Whatever the actual number, the volume of scrap tires was huge a decade ago. For most of its history, the tire industry ignored the problem, or gave mild lip service to devising ways to get rid of its end products. What methods of scrap tire recovery tire manufacturers did develop, they never much pursued. No money in it.
How many worn out tires are there today, tires that haven't found a final resting place as crumb rubber, in proper landfills, being burned for energy or shredded and used in civil engineering? An amount roughly equal to one year's supply of new tires, according to Scrap Tire Management Council officials.
Just as the tire industry can be blamed for avoiding the creation of the scrap tire pile over the years, it can be praised for helping lessen the problem. Through the STMC, tire makers are involved in advising, pushing and pleading with state governments to enact and enforce legislation to get rid of tire stockpiles. That, the growth of some markets for used tires—civil engineering being the hot ticket now—and a few fires that took out large numbers of junk tires have reduced the total number of scrap tires.
That doesn't mean the problem is solved. There's still some 300 million tires stockpiled throughout the country, and the recovery rate remains short of the 275 million new tires built annually. Saying the scrap tire problem is solved will promote backsliding, and a return to the bad old days of mammoth scrap tire piles.
Scrap tires always will be an issue the tire industry must face. But after a decade of work, it does seem to be under control.