Only about half of all tire dealers properly recycle their lead wheel weights with wheel weight manufacturers or battery recyclers, according to preliminary results of a Tire Industry Association (TIA) member survey.
If tire dealers don't get their lead recycling rates up, it could hit them right in the bank account, said Becky MacDicken, TIA government affairs director. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a ban on lead, and such a ban would force tire dealers to buy wheel weights out of much more expensive materials, such as steel.
``The EPA says there's 21 million pounds of lead out there that's unaccounted for, between what's purchased and what's recycled,'' Ms. MacDicken said. ``We think that's way high, but unfortunately about 50 percent of our people aren't recycling wheel weights like they should. We need to do some educational outreach.''
TIA asked its members to return their surveys by March 25. Other organizations and companies also sent out the survey, including Goodyear, Bridgestone/Firestone, the Motor Assistance Program and the Service Station Dealers of America, according to Ms. MacDicken.
The survey asked dealers a number of questions, including:
* If they have an environmental policy or program on recycling lead wheel weights;
* If they periodically check that their employees follow that policy;
* How many pounds of lead weights they recycle annually; and
* What percentage of lead wheel weights they reuse in service, return to the manufacturer, send to battery recyclers, send to scrap metal facilities, send to other types of recyclers or throw out in the trash.
Of the wheel weights that aren't recycled, tire dealers told TIA, a large portion are given away to fishermen and Boy Scouts, Ms. MacDicken said.
``The EPA thinks this lead must end up in the environment,'' she said. ``We haven't seen any proof of an increase in lead poisoning because of fishing (sinkers), but half of our people are not disposing of their wheel weights properly.''