AUSTIN, Texas-The Texas Legislature's effort to put more teeth into tire recycling mandates may end up taking a bite out of many fledgling businesses. Transporters and processors who jumped into the Texas waste tire industry four years ago say revisions to the state scrap tire program, which took effect last September, may force them out of business.
Among the changes is a reduction in the state's payment to processors-from 85 to 80 cents per tire-and a requirement that processors retool equipment to pare down the size of tire chips to 2 inches.
The legislature also banned whole tires from landfills and required processors to find end-users for tire shreds-or lose out on getting paid by the state.
Waste tire business owners are unhappy with the program and told state representatives as much at a special meeting recently in Austin. Still, Texas legislators only convene in session every other year, which means it will be January 1997 before lawmakers would be able to fine-tune the program once again.
Texas first launched its waste tire recycling effort in 1992, drawing funding for the program from a $2 disposal fee on new car tire purchases; $1 fee for used tires; $3.50 for tractor and large truck tires.
Retailers are required to remit the fees to the state, although tire dealers in West Texas and the so-called Panhandle of the state are now pondering the merits of the fee system.
Indeed, most of the problems with the program are concentrated in the remote regions of Texas, where towns are separated by hundreds of miles.
``We've got tires piling up even as we speak because transporters can't afford to pick them up,'' said Eddie Wynn, president of Texas Tire and Tube Inc., a wholesale tire distributor in Amarillo. ``We're doing our part to collect these fees and send them into the state, but those people in Austin aren't fulfilling their obligation to see that these tires get picked up.''
Teressa King, co-owner of King Tire Recycling in Plainview, is the transporter who collects the tires from Mr. Wynn's operation. But now that a West Texas processor has reduced her per-tire fee by 10 cents, she said she's had to scale down her service area, which spanned 42 counties at one time.
``It's a darn shame,'' she said. ``Here I'm in the business because I want to do a good job but, due to means beyond my control, I'm not sure if I'm even going to make it now.''
Bill Gann, the West Texas processor who cut Ms. King's fee, said he regretted doing so, but business conditions left him no other choice.
``I've held off doing this for nine months,'' said Mr. Gann, president and CEO of Environmental Recovery & Recycling Inc., of Stamford. ``But (the state) has backed us into a corner. Nobody's making a profit in this business. Everybody has to look at their hold cards and see if they're going to continue being a player.''
One state official questioned why processors were cutting transporters' fees so severely.
``They (processors) were cut a nickel, and they've responded by cutting transporters 10 to 20 cents,'' said Jennifer Sidnell, manager of the automotive waste management section of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. ``That impacts tire transporters tremendously. They're going to have to make a decision whether to shut their doors or tough it out.''
Ms. Sidnell pointed out the program's favorable aspects, from a cleanup and recycling perspective.
``To say the program has failed is a misnomer,'' Ms. Sidnell said. ``Our recycling rate has gone up-over a third of the tires collected are recycled. We've eliminated 700 of the 913 identified tire dumps, and we're keeping tires out of landfills.''
That news does little to cheer Robert Rivera, El Paso's county engineer. ``We have 200 tires waiting to be picked up from our collection station. And we have a lot more than that dumped outside of a tire-shredding facility that went out of business.''
The lack of transporters willing to make the long haul to El Paso forced the cancellation of this year's tire amnesty collection day, sponsored each year by Keep El Paso Beautiful.