The progress achieved so far toward solving North America's scrap tire problem should be a source of pride for many in the tire industry-particularly independent dealers who accept the vast majority of tires taken off customers' vehicles each year. Dealers, together with their respective state and national associations, have served on the front lines in the war to rid the landscape of unsightly tire piles that also threaten public health and safety. Many dealers helped write the laws that now address the scrap tire situation in their states.
And for once, the industry as a whole-from the manufacturer to the dealer/retreader to those collecting and processing unwanted tires-was virtually united in the pursuit of common objectives-namely, taking control of the scrap tire waste stream and finding productive and practical methods by which to dispose of unwanted tires.
What's more, time and experience have supported the industry's historic position that potential markets for scrap tires must be allowed to succeed or fail on their own economic merits rather than being artificially propped up by some form of government subsidy.
Markets in which scrap tire usage poses real dollars-and-cents advantages, such as tire-derived fuel, are flourishing and growing today. Meanwhile, other less-practical applications continue to flounder.
In New England and Illinois, for example, industrial users of scrap tires, such as paper mills, cement kilns, and electrical generating plants, already are exhausting local stockpiles-thus making it economically feasible to import tires for processing from outlying states.
Several states, meanwhile, are making it easier to obtain a permit to burn tires or TDF in such operations. This, in turn, has prompted speculation that the tires-to-energy market alone may soon be capable of consuming every tire taken off a U.S. motor vehicle.
If so, the industry deserves much of the credit for developing this and other markets for unwanted tires.
The industry's success in addressing the scrap tire problem is worth savoring-and lessons learned from this experience are worth applying to other situations.