WASHINGTON-The National Association of Scrap Tire Processors has sought to give its members ``a place at the table,'' in the words of NASTP President Bill Vincent, in formulating the scrap tire regulations and laws that affect them.
Now, with its merger into the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, the 2-year-old group hopes to achieve that goal.
``It's been a hard, uphill battle, but one all of us felt inclined to fight, in order to protect the investments we have,'' said Vincent, who also is president of Colt Inc. Scrap Tire Centers in Scott, La. ``We're trying to take our rightful place as scrap tire experts. When they make the rules we run our businesses by, we need to be there, helping to make them.''
The merger became official Sept. 10 through a unanimous vote of both the ISRI board of directors and the NASTP executive committee. Vincent sees the merger with ISRI-in which the NASTP became the larger organization's Tire & Rubber Division and Scrap Tire Processors Chapter-as the vehicle through which the tire processors' group can expand its reach.
ISRI offers a permanent staff of 30, including ``professionals who specifically represent ISRI members on Capitol Hill and in states in front of regulatory bodies,'' an ISRI spokeswoman said. It offers education and training programs, publications including ``Scrap'' magazine and internal newsletters, informational resources and its annual Spring Convention and Exposition, which gives members an opportunity to network, she said.
Before the NASTP joined, 27 of ISRI's approximately 1,300 members were rubber recyclers. Some of them recycled other materials, the spokeswoman said. The addition of the NASTP brings 15 new member companies to the institute, and its board of directors hopes to use the new division and chapter to attract more scrap tire processor members.
The division will have three seats on the ISRI board, but those have not yet been selected, Vincent said.
The alliance with ISRI, however, does seem to put the processors' group in line to achieve a voice in scrap tire policy commensurate with its members' investments and their importance to the industry.
It will help them shed the ``pickup truck and tire jockey image'' they have in some circles, Vincent said.
``We are the experts, but no one ever looks to us,'' the executive said. ``We have millions tied up in these facilities; it's very expensive to put in tire processing equipment. We're trying to move up, and ISRI will give us a forum to become recognized authorities in our industry.''
Since 1990, the Scrap Tire Management Council has been the major private-sector voice in scrap tire regulation and policy. But, Vincent noted, it represents new tire manufacturers, not scrap tire processors, and the two industries' points of view don't always coincide.
``The problem has been with the legislative process,'' he said. ``All these people go into a room, including the STMC, and make rules we have to operate our businesses under. Some of those rules make it very hard to stay in business.''
The NASTP has had some successes in raising its profile, but representatives of other scrap tire groups say they know little about the association.
``We really haven't had any direct dealings with them,'' said Dick Gust, executive vice president of Chicago-based Lakin General Corp. and chairman of the International Tire and Rubber Association Tire & Rubber Recycling Advisory Council.
The council asked NASTP members to participate in an organizational meeting in Nashville, Tenn. ``We invited them to join us, but they said they were not interested in doing that,'' he said. ``I saw them as a lobbying group with a special interest. We are not a lobbying group, but try to represent all aspects of the industry.''
According to STMC Executive Director Michael Blumenthal, the NASTP ``is working a different side of the street than we are.'' This leads, he said, to different priorities when it comes to framing state scrap tire laws.
``We say that if any money is to be given to someone, give it to the end-user, not the processor,'' he said. ``We'd like to see money allocated to the scrap tire industry. But money going to production capacity has proven not to be the best way to use the money.''
Vincent said Blumenthal mischaracterized his position. ``The NASTP does not pursue (processing) fees,'' he said. ``I'm not even sure that's legal for us as an association. For anyone in our industry to think that anyone is more interested in creating markets than we are-what's more far out than that? We're the ones with the rubber, so creating markets only benefits us.''
But Vincent said it would be a grievous mistake to view the STMC and the NASTP as rival organizations. Instead, the NASTP is a complementary group, providing an alternative voice on scrap tire issues.