TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-If the Florida state legislature has its way, fees collected by tire dealers to clean up tire piles and support recycling will be diverted to fund non-tire management activities.
The state legislature has approved and submitted to Gov. Jeb Bush a budget bill that would divert $33.8 million from Florida's $57 million Solid Waste Management Trust Fund to subsidize water projects, according to Fletcher Herrald, management analyst with the Department of Environmental Protection. The solid waste fund is used by the state to clean up tire piles and provide grants to counties to pay for scrap tire abatement.
The governor has two weeks to review the bill and use his line-item veto power-so the amount actually taken out of the waste fund may decrease, Mr. Herrald said.
Florida tire dealers and recyclers are up in arms over the budget proposal, said Jill Mondo, executive director of the Florida Independent Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association. Fees collected for tire recycling should be used for that purpose, she said, or otherwise should be reduced or repealed.
``Florida's tire dealers collect tire fees from customers to pay for state tire disposal, recycling and education programs,'' Ms. Mondo said. ``The government is now planning to use funds raised by tire dealers, which currently are used for tire programs, to fund water projects-and our dealers are rightfully furious.''
Ms. Mondo said that Florida has one of the most ``mature'' scrap tire management programs in the country in that the state has collected a $1-per-new-tire fee and paid for cleanup and recycling efforts for more than 10 years. The government, she said, now assumes that scrap tire management is no longer an issue and is raiding the trust fund to pay for other projects.
Some tire recyclers also could go out of business if counties no longer receive grants from the state, she added.
Tiffany Hughes, vice president of Jacksonville, Fla.-based American Rubber Technologies (ART) Inc., a recycled rubber producer, echoed that sentiment. She told Tire Business that ART is disappointed by the legislation because the loss of a ``consistent level of funding'' may harm promising markets.
``During my tenure at ART, I have seen Florida emerge as a leader among states in its recycling efforts, especially with regard to scrap tires and the development of new markets,'' Ms. Hughes said. ``Though we, as a state, should be commended, there is still a lot of work to do. Solid waste and tire problems in Florida are ongoing and must continue to be addressed.''
Ms. Hughes called the loss of funding potentially ``devastating.'' She said job losses could occur within the public and private sectors, along with a loss of business infrastructure. Educational programs for children and adults on the importance of recycling most likely would be cut, and support from tire dealers for tire fees also could erode in 2002.
Mr. Herrald, however, said that scrap tire fees really aren't going to fund water projects since the overall solid waste trust fund totals $57 million and scrap tire fees only accounted for approximately $19 million of that amount. A percentage of the state's sales tax brings in approximately $30 million, he said.
If the governor allows $33.8 million from the solid waste fund to go towards water projects, Mr. Herrald said Florida counties with populations ranging from 200,000 to 750,000 would be most affected by cuts in state grants.
Florida enacted its $1 fee on new tires in 1989 to fund tire dump cleanups, research on recycled rubber, tire management grants to counties and support regulatory staff, Mr. Herrald said. Today, only two major sites containing more than 50,000 tires remain in the state.