Those in the tire industry who ply their trade in scrap tires should feel good.
They've made great strides over the past decade or so in reducing North America's scrap tire piles, while helping develop markets for tires that have come to the end of their useful road life.
While progress has been great, the disposal and reuse of scrap tires remain important concerns, with more tires still being discarded each year than are consumed by expanding markets.
For those in the tire industry, that is the reality. And it means everyone, including independent tire dealers and other tire retailers, must remain vigilant in helping the scrap tire industry tame this mountainous environmental issue.
Recent research by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) shows how far the scrap tire industry has come. In 1990, the RMA said, only 11 percent of the scrap tires generated that year went to an end-use market.
Jump ahead to 2003, and the number had soared to 80 percent, with nearly 233 million of the 290 million scrap tires generated finding an end-use.
This is a tremendous improvement for sure, but it still has left 57 million waste tires needing a home. That's a lot of tires.
Over that same period, the scrap tire industry also made great strides reducing the number of stockpiled tires by 73 percent. Yet millions of scrap tires remain in piles and landfills.
In Ohio, one of 11 states singled out by the RMA as having a high concentration of stockpiled tires, there are at least 100 scrap tire sites awaiting abatement. Of these, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has identified about two dozen containing 30,000 to 750,000 tires each and more than 76 others containing up to 30,000 tires each.
These piles continue to exist despite a successful 14-year effort in Ohio that has resulted in the cleanup of some 30 million waste tires.
Lately several states have allowed their new-tire fees to expire, putting their scrap tire programs in jeopardy. That happened in Missouri recently, where legislators failed to renew the state's scrap tire fee. After loading up the amendment with pork, they then failed to pass 10 different bills that would have reinstated the fee.
Others states, meanwhile, have diverted money collected for scrap tire abatement and market development to their general coffers.
These shortsighted decisions by some state legislators minimize the huge effort the scrap tire industry has put forth in a relatively short time to lessen a massive environmental problem.
With hundreds of millions of tires discarded annually, it wouldn't take much for the positive progress made in scrap tires to reverse itself.
Now-with the job only partly done-is not the time for complacency.