The Oklahoma legislature may have had good reason to drain the state's scrap tire fund and transfer the money to Oklahoma's general coffers. But in so doing, it has gutted the state's scrap tire abatement program and jeopardized the collection and recycling of tires.
Just as important, the transfer has put tire dealers in the uncomfortable position of having collected money from their customers under false pretenses.
Instead of the revenue going to pay recyclers for each ton of tires processed, as intended, it's now being used for other purposes.
This leaves many Oklahomans wondering how the state will continue to pay processors to pick up and shred tires.
It's not the first time a state has taken money earmarked for scrap tires and shifted it to other uses.
Maryland, in recent years, took $4 million from its scrap tire program to pay other expenses. Wisconsin transferred money to its general fund after ending its scrap tire program.
Such actions are simply unacceptable.
These funds were collected for the purpose of recycling scrap tires and cleaning up tire piles. Tire dealers, who are obligated to collect the funds, have reason to feel cheated and indignant.
It could be argued that Oklahoma's $1 scrap tire fee for passenger tires and $3.50 for truck tires is too high considering the state only has about 188,000 tires remaining in dumps. Oklahoma seems to have scrap tire disposal under control.
If so, then it should reduce the fee, end the collections altogether or limit the duration of fee collection.
But under no circumstances should the state simply transfer money out of its scrap tire fund whenever a non-tire-related need arises.
The Oklahoma situation seems typical of a growing apathy towards scrap tire disposal.
Many states have made headway on reducing tire piles, and the problem of tire disposal makes headlines less often.
But scrap tires continue to be discarded in numbers that well exceed the potential markets for them. In Oklahoma alone, 3.2 million scrap tires are taken off vehicles annually.
Unless states continue to take a proactive role in dealing with them, scrap tires will again become a major waste problem.
Oklahoma could lead the way by taking steps to ensure that its scrap tire program remains viable and equitable.
Tire dealers in the state should let legislators and the public know of their displeasure over how the money has been misappropriated.
Dealers in other states need to be equally vigilant that the funds they collect are used as intended.
Doing so will ensure the scrap tire disposal problem continues to be brought under control.