HARRISBURG, Pa.—Pennsylvania officials plan to spend up to $12 million during the next five years in an effort to rid the state of nearly 25 million scrapped tires. The Waste Tire Recycling Act, which the state legislature approved Nov. 25 and was signed into law by Gov. Tom Ridge on Dec. 19, provides $1 million annually for five years to clean up tire stockpiles.
An additional $2 million a year for three years will go to tire recyclers in the form of investment tax credits for tire recycling equipment.
The new law is the state's first attempt to address the scrap tire issue and was prompted in part by a fire at an illegal scrap tire pile under an overpass of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia early last year, according to Richard Fox, executive secretary of the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee, which supported the legislation.
The well-publicized tire fire caused $6 million in damage to the highway and temporarily shut down the city's main artery.
State Rep. David Argall, the bill's sponsor, said the legislation differs from past efforts to rid Pennsylvania of large piles of tires.
Instead of taxing tires and having the government take the money and try to find something to do with the tire piles, Mr. Argall's bill provides funding to the private sector ``to assist in the development of markets,'' he said.
The program will be funded through a state recycling fund that receives money from a $2-per-ton fee on municipal waste.
The state already charges a $1 fee on each new tire sold in the state, but those monies are already dedicated to mass transit funding.
Mr. Fox said it was ``politically impossible'' to either increase the tire fee or transfer the tire fee proceeds to the recycling program.
Officials expect the new scrap tire program to rid the state of all tire dumps within five years. State Department of Environmental Protection staff report that the state already is gaining momentum toward that goal.
In 1995, officials estimated there were 36 million old tires lying in heaps throughout the state. Jay Ort, DEP's scrap yard program coordinator, now guesses there are 25 million tires. However, the state's drivers generate an estimated 11 million scrap tires annually.
He noted that no one really knows for sure how many tires are out there, but added the department has identified a dozen sites that contain about 5 million scrap tires.
Mr. Ort said he also has a prioritized list of 50 major tire piles, each with at least 50,000 tires, and is now compiling a list of sites with more than 10,000 tires in them.
The DEP will look at four criteria when reviewing applications for funds to clean up a tire pile: the overall environmental and public health problems the pile may create; the end use of the tires; cost effectiveness, i.e. the most tires recycled per dollar; and whether the plan can become part of the permanent infrastructure to reuse scrap tires.
``We also have an end-market preference list,'' Mr. Ort said. ``In order, we want reuse; second, recycle; and third is energy recovery.''
Mr. Ort noted that ``the biggest real market now is energy recovery.'' In 1995, he said, 75 percent of the scrap tires that were cleaned up were burned as fuel.
Messrs. Ort and Argall both see the need to promote and develop other uses for scrap tires in Pennsylvania.
A promising prospect for tires is in highway paving, Mr. Ort said.
The DEP already is using $1 million the governor had set aside in his budget for scrap tire cleanup.
In addition to providing money for market development, the Waste Tire Recycling Act prohibits landfills from accepting whole tires unless they are to be put to beneficial use, such as returned to service or re-cycled at an appropriate facility.
Penalties for landfilling tires start at up to $1,000 fines and 30 days jail for first offenses, to upwards of $5,000 in fines per day and 90 days in jail for repeat offenders.