The Rubber Manufacturers Association has joined with a coalition of state and federal agencies and businesses to address a growing scrap tire pile problem and develop markets for scrap-tire-derived products along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Border of Environmental Cooperation Commission, a group created by the North American Free Trade Agreement to find environmental solutions on either side of the border, initiated the project and asked the RMA to step in.
A huge demand exists along the border for used tires because of economics. As a result, many tires reportedly are being exported to Mexico despite that country's laws prohibiting used tire imports, according to Jorge Castillo, field liaison for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's border affairs department.
``(Sources) tell us that there are a lot of tires moving across the border, but a lot of that movement is clandestine,'' Castillo said.
He noted there are some cement kilns in northern Mexico near the southern tip of Texas that process scrap tires, but no kilns further north along the border. As a result, the TCEQ has met with the BECC, the RMA, the North American Development Bank, Mexican environmental officials and representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency to find solutions to tire dumping. The Rubber Pavements Association also was asked recently to share information on tire-derived fuel, asphalt rubber and civil engineering applications, Castillo said.
Other groups involved in the project include the Texas Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Environmental Quality of New Mexico and the California Integrated Waste Management Board. The EPA and its Mexican counterpart are developing an initiative called Border 2012 to outline major environmental objectives the coalition will try to accomplish by 2012, according to Castillo. Those objectives include cleaning up three major tire piles along the border, particularly a large one in the Baja California peninsula, he said.
Michael Blumenthal, RMA technical director, said the agency is getting involved with the coalition because many of its members have production capacity in Mexico, but those companies across the border don't have the same expertise as the RMA in scrap tire management.
``We can set up infrastructure that will create processing capacity that will address the stockpiling of tires and the inflow of tires to make it a manageable situation,'' Blumenthal said. ``That's the approach we're going to advocate.''
He likened the situation in Mexico as similar to what the U.S. faced in 1985 before scrap tire legislation and regulations were enacted. Mexico also has no registered haulers, no regulations or tire fees to deal with the problem, he added.
``Until there's a lot more development on the other side of the border, those tires are going to keep on coming in, and as long as there's a demand for them, they're going to show up,'' Blumenthal said. ``The quality of the tire can range from a very decent used tire to something ready to come apart.''
As far as officials can tell, no scrap tires are coming into the U.S. from Mexico, Castillo said, though some Mexican environmental officials have mentioned that as a short-term solution since the U.S. has more end-use markets.
Since early spring, Blumenthal has been speaking to the Mexican border state department of health, economic development and solid waste officials, as well as municipal elected officials, the Texas regulatory agency personnel, members of the Mexican tire industry, the BECC, Department of Health and the North American Development Bank. With bank officials in particular, Blumenthal said he's had debates on what types of infrastructure should be funded.
``They want to do the grand rubber operation down there,'' he said. ``I'm telling them that's a waste, and they're looking at me like, `Why wouldn't I want this kind of development?' ''
Castillo noted that Blumenthal's last presentation to coalition officials emphasized ``mom and pop use'' such as industrial mats to help reduce tire piles.
``A lot of times the solutions tend to be very large, capital-intensive types of projects, and I think we'd rather attack it from all ends to help a community address their waste tire problems,'' Castillo said.