Scrap Tire Management

A Case Study of Vermont
PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 0607-09
Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that there were nearly one billion scrap tires in stockpiles across the nation. The most recent data of Vermont, reported by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001, indicates that as many as 200,000 scrap tires are stored in stockpiles. Such stockpiles pose serious environmental and health threats which could have severe long term effects if not properly addressed. To confront those threats appropriately, the state should consider developing more effective strategies for the collection and use of scrap tires. The rubber from scrap tires has a variety of constructive uses, such as a physical resource in civil engineering, thus stockpiling scrap tires is a problem not only due to the pollution it represents, but also because of the productivity waste it involves.

This brief summarizes the threat posed by scrap tire stock piles, describes the status quo for scrap tires processing, and discusses policy options the state may wish to consider in order to improve the current status of scrap tire management in Vermont. The information presented in this report is synthesized from reports on scrap tires and drawn from conversations with professionals involved in different stages of scrap tire processing in both the private and the public sector.

Currently in Vermont, scrap tires that are legally stockpiled are collected at public drop-off centers or at private tire and auto dealerships. In both cases, the fees are charged to consumers for disposing their tires, which serves as a disincentive for people to properly dispose of their tires. Despite readily available scrap tire disposal methods, illegal stockpiling continues to be a problem. The long term ramifications can be serious, thus improvements in scrap tire management can potentially help alleviate illegal stockpile dumping.

After the collection process, scrap tires are commonly converted to Tire-Derived Fuel, and, less frequently, used in civil engineering projects. In evaluating the potential uses of scrap tires, policy makers could consider the costs, public health and safety concerns, environmental implications, and labor issues associated with each application. With attention focused on those concerns, this paper discusses the costs and benefits of Tire Derived Fuel and various civil engineering uses of scrap tires.

Ultimately, three policies the state could institute to attempt to collect a greater percentage of the scrap tires produced are:

  • Creation of "Tire Round-Up Day" - once every year where residents can drop off their tires free of charge in various waste facilities
  • A tire deposit system similar to that put in place for glass bottles
  • The institution of a tire tax on new tires to pay for the disposal of scrap tires