``One man's trash is another man's treasure.'' That saying certainly applies to the scrap tire industry. The worn tires dealers toss in the back of their stores while waiting for disposal are, in fact, the raw material for a growing industry.
Despite recent setbacks in civil engineering applica-tions, when two roadbeds built with tire shreds burned last year, the markets for scrap tires are slowly developing and maturing.
Witness the growth in sales of tire-derived fuel and in consumption of crumb rubber.
Today more than 100 industrial facilities in the U.S. are using TDF as a supplemental alternative to coal in cement kilns and commercial boilers. In 1995, such concerns consumed about 120 million waste tires (the latest figures available), and usage is likely to increase this year.
As for crumb rubber, an estimated 8 million to 10 million scrap tires were processed into granules in 1996—up by at least one-third from the 6 million consumed in 1995—and that number's expected to grow by 15 to 20 percent this year.
Along with this increased usage, the industry as a whole is beginning to become more professional and to develop tougher and more stringent standards for the products it produces.
This development is important not only for the industry itself, but also for tire dealers and other retailers who take in their customers' scrap tires and are faced with disposing of them properly.
Most dealers are not directly involved in scrap tire recycling and consider disposing of waste tires a nuisance.
But the continued development of markets for scrap tires means the costs of tire disposal could one day begin to come down as demand for these products increases.
Dealers may never see the day when they can sell the scrap tires in their possession for a profit. But if the scrap tire market continues to grow and develop, dealers should benefit from lower tipping fees.
That would be welcome news, indeed.