Scrap Tire Management Council officials and others involved in solving the nation's scrap-tire problem should be patting themselves on the back. But not too hard.
For while the piles of scrap tires dotting the landscape have clearly declined, the challenge still exists. And anything less than strict vigilance by state and local officials, tire dealers and tire makers could cause the tire piles to mount again.
Still, the progress over the past 10 years should be viewed as a victory. This is particularly true for the STMC and its funding organization, the Rubber Manufacturers Association, whose membership consists of most major tire companies.
At a time when tire makers are under fire for safety issues, their efforts to solve a major environmental problem deserve praise.
Where once scrap tires were counted in the billions now they number in the millions.
Today, the STMC estimates only about 300 million scrap tires are piled up around the country.
But eliminating scrap tires is far from finished.
Of the 276 million tires discarded in the U.S. last year, 70 percent went toward an end-use such as tire-derived fuel, crumb rubber and civil engineering projects.
While an admirable total, that still leaves nearly 83 million tires to take up space in dumps or landfills. In addition, the number of new passenger and truck tires produced in 2000 exceeded 321 million—tires that eventually will have to be scrapped.
So the STMC's work is not done. The industry needs more viable end-use markets for scrap tires and their by-products. And some states still have large stockpiles which need to be addressed.
Yet there's no disputing the tremendous progress that's been made in reducing an environmental eyesore and health hazard. The industry's efforts are paying off.