Many of the successful U.S. scrap tire markets would also work in Mexico if introduced there, the Rubber Manufacturers Association's resident scrap tire expert has told Mexican officials.
``Despite cultural differences that affect it, business is business, and the fundamentals of the scrap tire business are the same worldwide,'' said Michael Blumenthal, RMA senior technical director, about a March presentation he made at the Mexican Embassy, which a senior Mexican environmental official called ``very, very helpful.''
SEMARMAT, Mexico's environmental regulatory agency, has been gathering information about various aspects of Mexico's solid waste problem-including scrap tires-since the passage of solid waste legislation last year, Mr. Blumenthal said.
Towns such as Mexicali and Matamoros, along the U.S.-Mexico border, are notorious for huge tire piles caused largely by the active regional trade in used tires and vehicles. Teodoro Maus, director at the Mexican Embassy for SEMARMAT, said there could be as many as 10 million tires in piles in the six Mexican states that border the U.S.
Mr. Blumenthal made a presentation about scrap tires last year in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, for a meeting of the Border Environmental Commission, a body created by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Several SEMARMAT officials attended that meeting and in due course invited him to speak at the Mexican Embassy, he said.
``I presented a history of the RMA's involvement in this area, a history of the U.S. scrap tire industry, our view of what constitutes an effective scrap tire program and some of the mistakes that have been made in developing scrap tire plans,'' he said.
Potential scrap tire markets in Mexico are very similar to those that already exist in the U.S., according to Mr. Blumenthal. There are two cement kilns in Mexico that already use scrap tires as fuel, and there are many more that could, he said. Rubberized asphalt, punch-and-stamp products and civil engineering projects also are ripe for development in Mexico, he added.
``Mexico is a highly industrialized country, and the technology doesn't change just because it's written in Spanish,'' he said.
On the other hand, there are some cultural factors in Mexico that could throw up hurdles against creating a viable scrap tire industry there, according to Mr. Blumenthal.
``They're not used to having many environmental laws,'' he said. ``Tire collection, tipping fees, leaving tires at the point of sale are alien concepts there.''
In any case, scrap tires-though a major problem in Mexico-are not nearly as pressing as polluted water, hazardous materials and other environmental crises the country faces, Mr. Blumenthal said.
``The ball is in their court, and it's up to them to decide what to do,'' he said. ``I don't know where scrap tires will come out on their list of priorities, but they won't be at the very top.''
In the meantime, Mr. Blumenthal said he will continue to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Regions IV and VI-the regions bordering Mexico-for solutions to their scrap tire problem. He also will participate in a conference on industrial boilers scheduled for San Antonio in May, which among other things will address the Mexican fuel situation and touch on scrap tires and tire-derived fuel.
Meanwhile, Mr. Blumenthal's presentation at the Mexican Embassy gave Mexican officials a clear idea of their country's scrap tire situation and possible solutions to it, SEMARMAT's Mr. Maus said. ``The way he explained it made it seem feasible.''