WASHINGTON—Last year's much-publicized ``burning roads'' in the Northwest and a smoldering retaining wall in Colorado—ill-fated civil engineering projects that used scrap tire chips—have stalled the overall growth of the scrap tire market in the U.S.. While official numbers won't be in until the end of January at the earliest, Michael Blumenthal, Scrap Tire Management Council executive director, estimated the number of scrap tires used in 1996 fell 25 percent short of projections. But he expects the market to pick up again in 1997.
``1996 was a tough year but not as bad as we feared,'' he said. ``That gives us a fair amount of optimism for 1997.''
The market should top the 200 million mark for the first time, Mr. Blumenthal said. However, he declined to nail down an exact number.
``1997 should be a good year because (American Scientific Testing Materials) guidelines will be completed,'' he said. ``We should see significant gains in the use of tire-derived fuel. It's becoming a very accepted fuel. Air emissions continue to be positive; the economics are there. A lot of the fears about TDF have subsided.''
The ground rubber market should increase to between 12 million and 15 million tires, he said. That's a substantial increase from the 7 million the STMC projected for 1996.
Since the scrap tire market was 25 percent smaller than STMC's 1996 projection of 236 million, that would put last year's total at about 177 million, which tops 1995's total of 174.5 million.
The biggest decline was in civil engineering applications, according to Mr. Blumenthal. The STMC estimated the market would use 20 million scrap tires in 1996, but with fires at civil engineering sites in Washington, Colorado and Oregon, the category took a big hit, he said.
Mr. Blumenthal estimated the market in 1996 used no more than half the 20 million projected.
``Obviously the overall numbers would be bigger had the Washington state and other incidents not happened,'' he said. ``There was a big hit, but not as bad as I feared at first.''