U.S. and Mexican environmental officials are moving toward an agreement to develop a strategy for disposal and recycling of the 10 million-plus scrap tires stockpiled along the two countries' borders.
"We hope to come up with a scrap tire management policy for the entire border region, but we don't have a timetable for it," said Rick Picardi, senior policy adviser on the International Team for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Solid Waste.
The discussions were held before and during a conference in Ciudad Juarez Sept. 8-9, on the disposition of used vehicles and other waste along the U.S.-Mexico border. "We hoped to finish up in time for the workshop, but we didn't quite make it," Picardi said.
While the pending agreement doesn't go into many specifics, it still represents "a step forward" in the effort to clean up scrap tires on the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Michael Blumenthal, senior technical director for the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
Particularly encouraging, Blumenthal said, is an agreement signed in Juarez Sept. 9 between Mexican federal environmental officials, the city executive of Ciudad Juarez and executives of Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua, a subsidiary of Mexican cement-making giant CEMEX S.A. de C.V.
Cementos de Chihuahua reached agreement with Ciudad Juarez to burn 800,000 scrap tires a year for the next five years. Cementos de Chihuahua will invest $2.5 million to retrofit its kiln at Samalayuca, 25 miles south of Ciudad Juarez. In return, the city will pay Cementos de Chihuahua 31 cents for every tire burned.
Ciudad Juarez alone has more than 5 million tires in its collection center, with maybe 2 million more in illegal piles, according to published reports.
"This is exactly how we like to see a program start up-an established company using a lot of tires quickly in an economically and environmentally sound manner," Blumenthal said. Furthermore, he added, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed off on this agreement. "That means the EPA has given its tacit support to the use of tire-derived fuel in cement kilns, which is very significant."
CEMEX, Cementos de Chihuahua's parent firm, already uses TDF extensively in its U.S. and European operations, and this experience would make it easy for the company to expand its use of TDF in Mexico, according to Blumenthal. "The technology to burn a tire in a cement kiln is the same in Mexico as in the U.S.," he said.
The pending U.S.-Mexico agreement contains no specifics on a scrap tire policy, said Willie Kelly, chief of the Solid Waste Division at EPA Region IV in Dallas. "It focuses on information and market development, working on stockpile abatement and public awareness," Kelly said.
It is part of the "Border 2012" initiative, a 10-year pact signed in 2002 to clean up the environment along the U.S.-Mexico border, he added.
Picardi said he expected further talks in the next few weeks, but there is no timeline for them, he added.