WASHINGTON (Feb. 24, 2011)—Whole and shredded scrap tires aren't solid waste under Clean Air Act regulations when managed by established tire collection programs run by states or other entities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined in final rules issued today.
“These collection programs ensure that the scrap tires are not discarded en route to the combustor for use as a fuel and are handled as a valuable commodity,” the EPA stated in the standard defining which non-hazardous materials are to be treated as solid waste and which are not. “These established tire collection programs, together with state bans on landfilling in most states, effectively result in the beneficial reuse of tires (as fuel or used in other scrap tire markets) as the sole end use option for scrap tires in those states.”
Tires coming from such programs may be processed at the user's discretion and burned as a non-waste fuel, the EPA said. But discarded tires (i.e. those from tire dumps) must be processed according to the methods set forth in the final rule—including metal removal—before they can be burned as non-waste fuel.
This is good news for the tire recycling industry, which feared that tire-derived fuel might be defined as solid waste and made subject to the stringent control rules governing solid waste incinerators, making it economically non-competitive compared with other fuels.
This rule, which goes into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, is part of a massive set of regulations establishing new Clean Air Act control standards for industrial boilers and solid waste incinerators. The Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Tire Industry Association, among many others, were at presstime still scrutinizing the standards, which run to many hundreds of pages.
The EPA began the multiyear process of rewriting the boiler and incinerator standards in June 2007, when a federal appeals court found the agency violated the plain intent of the Clean Air Act when it allowed industrial facilities that use TDF and other alternative fuels to be regulated as industrial boilers rather than solid waste incinerators.
The appeals court deadline for new regulations was Jan. 16, 2011. On Dec. 7, 2010, the EPA petitioned the court for an extension until April 13, 2012, but the court would only extend the deadline until Feb. 21, 2011.
According to an EPA press release, the final rules cut the cost of compliance by $1.8 billion, or about 50 percent, from the proposed rules issued in April 2010. The resulting reductions in toxic air emissions will prevent 4,100 heart attacks, 42,000 asthma attacks and between 2,600 and 6,600 premature deaths annually in 2014, when the new rules go fully into effect, the agency said.