WASHINGTON—The proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reclassify tire-derived fuel and other nontraditional, nonhazardous fuels as solid wastes pleases environmentalists—and just about no one else.
Representatives from the tire and cement industries, and state solid waste management officials, solidly line up against the plan, judging from comments submitted to the EPA on the proposed rule. They maintain the regulations would end the use of tires as fuel.
The agency's three proposed rules—totaling 860 manuscript pages—aim to reduce emissions of mercury and other pollutants from industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and solid waste incinerators. If it becomes law, the regulations would redefine TDF and other nonhazardous materials as solid waste, which means any unit that burned them would have to be classified as solid waste incinerators under the Clean Air Act.
The additional regulatory cost of main- taining solid waste incinerators over industrial boilers would price TDF out of the market, according to opponents of the measures.
Pros and cons
Grace Griffith, vice chair of the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the EPA solid waste incinerator proposal was a simple case of environmental justice for rural areas, where much of the burning of nontraditional fuels takes place.
“The impacts from burning nontraditional materials … are poorly understood, have almost no regulatory history and would be more effectively regulated as solid wastes,” Griffith wrote in her comments.
“A broad U.S. EPA definition that discourages the incineration of solid waste with more comprehensive regulatory controls will provide greater incentives for safe recycling, composting, anaerobic digestion and other cleaner alternatives,” she said. “These cleaner alternatives will stimulate new businesses and create jobs.”
The Rubber Manufacturers Association, however, told the EPA the proposed rule as written would cause great harm to the scrap tire industry and the environment.
Under the proposed rule, all scrap tires would be defined as solid waste, meaning that only tire-derived fuel that had undergone processing—such as TDF targeted for the pulp and paper market—would be considered fuel, the RMA said. Whole or roughly shredded tires intended for cement kilns would be defined as solid waste.
“RMA estimates that fewer than 100 million tires remain in stockpiles, compared to estimates of 1 billion in 1990,” the association said. “However, depending on the outcome of the rulemaking, the U.S. could again see the number of scrap tires in stockpiles rise.”
TDF, which has been used as an industrial fuel in the U.S. since the late 1970s, clearly merits being classified as a traditional fuel in the final rule, the RMA said. The association also said it supported the agency's stance in the advance notice of the proposed rule, which was that annually generated scrap tires —as opposed to stockpiled tires—did not qualify as solid waste.
The Tire Industry Association and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries echoed the RMA's concerns.
“It is difficult to fathom the agency considering a rulemaking that could block the end-use of what is generally believed to be over 50 percent of all recycled tires,” TIA said in its comments.
The scrap tire marketplace would collapse without TDF, according to TIA. “Our recycling members have expressed concerns in no uncertain terms that they do not foresee the viability of their operations if TDF becomes a solid waste,” it said.
ISRI said that, although its preference is to see scrap tires used in value-added products such as rubberized asphalt and landscaping mulch, the bal- ance of supply and demand dictates that some tires must be used as an energy source.
“Scrap tire recyclers have created a successful market for the generators of tires to economically and environmentally deal with their materials at the end of life,” ISRI said. “With no environmentally friendly market for recycling, the end result may be the reintroduction of illegal scrap tire piles.”
The Cement Kiln Recycling Coalition called the solid waste proposal “a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”
The EPA and the cement kiln industry have worked together for 20 years to foster a mutually beneficial program of using TDF and other secondary materials as fuel in cement kilns, the CKRC said.
“And, ironically, EPA's proposals would destroy these markets and technologies without advancing any of the environmental and human health goals to which the agency claims to be committed,” it said. “The proposed rules are arbitrary, capricious, irrational and not a product of reasoned decision-making.”
Keeping it local
State environmental agencies, as well as organizations representing them, commented generally that they preferred to maintain authority over the use of nonhazardous secondary materials within their borders.
The Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association—representing solid waste programs in New York, New Jersey and the New England states—said its members want to ensure they can maximize the diversion of nonhazardous secondary materials from disposal toward productive uses.
“The rule as proposed would likely interfere significantly with the appropriate reuse of resources and increase the quantity of material that is disposed,” NEWMOA said.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality recommend that the EPA exclude whole or shredded tires from being defined as solid waste when used for heat recovery.