Rubber, Meet Road

Two years have passed since the Washington-based Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) released its previous report on U.S. scrap tire markets. Since then, Americans have reduced the number of stockpiled tires by 87 million. Issued at the end of 2006, “Scrap Tire Markets in the United States” includes reuse rates for 2005 and ranks states on their handling of the material.

Overall, 87 percent of disposed tires were reused in 2005. That compares to 11 percent in 1990, the first year the biennial report was released. Michael Blumenthal, senior technical director for RMA, attributes the improvement to state clean-up laws and regulations as well as market development efforts.

Tire-derived fuel (TDF), civil engineering and ground rubber markets consumed the most scrap tires in 2005. Accounting for more than half of re-use, TDF has become more popular, according to the report, because of the continuing interest in alternative fuels as well as an improved and more consistent product. Tires also proved beneficial to the civil engineering market, which used nearly 50 million of them in a variety of applications including landfill construction, where they suppress noise and prevent leachate erosion.

South Carolina, Maine and North Carolina led the country in addressing scrap tires. The frontrunner, South Carolina, has depleted its stockpiles by reusing 8 million tires — with most going to TDF — while generating 6.5 million in 2005. In general, the Environmental Protection Agency region comprised by North and South Carolina and six other states had the strongest scrap tire markets, fueled in large part by several pulp and paper mill boilers and cement kilns that consume TDF.

Texas, Alabama, Michigan and Ohio, meanwhile, claimed the status of most improved since 2003. RMA reports that Alabama “dramatically increased” the number of tires re-used in other markets, while the other three states significantly reduced their stockpiles. According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, that state cleaned up more than 28 million scrap tires.

Texas, however, still is one of seven states — including Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania — that are responsible for 85 percent of the country's remaining stockpiles. In some of those states, such as New York, attempts to abate scrap tires have stalled, in part, due to inadequate market capacity, the report says. Colorado and other western states suffer from low population density and greater distances between population centers.

Because tires can range in size from 22.5 to more than 100 pounds, the most recent version of the RMA report is the first to include measurement in weight. By that count, Americans re-used 82 percent of tires.

To download the complete report, visit www.rma.org.