WILLISTON, Vt. (July 22, 2005) — Tire dealers in Vermont have managed to squelch a bill this year that would have made recycling tires no different than recycling bottles and cans.
House Bill 146 proposed establishing a deposit and return system for tires and would have mandated that all tires sold in Vermont be labeled as such. The bill states that consumers would pay a deposit “between $5 and $10” on the sale of new tires and that tire dealers would refund the deposit upon delivery for disposal. Either tire manufacturers or distributors would pay the amount of the deposit, plus a handling fee.
“It would have a huge impact not only on me, but everyone else here that's in the tire business,” said Terry Sheahan, owner of Williston-based Goss Tire Co., and a lead opponent to the bill. “The good news is the legislature has packed up and gone home for the year, which is always the best thing to have happen. The bill never made it out of committee.”
Mr. Sheahan told Tire Business that new or scrap tire legislation tends to be proposed regularly by the legislature, “whether it's a deposit, a handling fee, you name it, we've seen it.” Most recently, he said a group of high school students in Montpelier, Vt., fished nearly 50 tires from a river during a local cleanup effort and asked some state legislators to do something about scrap tires, which resulted in H.B. 146.
“It's just, let's make a mountain out of a molehill,” Mr. Sheahan said of the legislators' efforts.
Dick Cole, executive director of the New England Tire & Service Association (NETSA), said although the proposed legislation appears to be dead for now, there's no telling if it will come up again in the future. Vermont's legislative session runs from January through May.
Mr. Cole noted the same proposal came up a few years ago in committee but never reached the full state legislature for a vote. “If it came up a second time, it gives you a lousy feeling that it's not dead yet even though it ought to be,” he said.
One of the more controversial items in the bill was a stipulation that every tire sold in the state ought to be identified as such “by a stamp, label or other mark securely and visibly affixed to the tire.”
Mr. Sheahan said he asked legislators how they intended to have this done and by whom but received no clear answers. He said a state legislator during committee debate assumed tires could be branded with a hot iron as Vermont tires.
Mr. Sheahan told Tire Business that Vermont has no large scrap tire piles like many other states and doesn't need the revenue proposed by the H.B. 146 for tire cleanup.
“We have a private (tire disposal) system that works beautifully,” Mr. Sheahan added. “Every time I testify in front of these folks, that's what I tell them. You want to get the government involved to try to find a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. We don't have a problem.”
Vermont generates approximately 600,000 scrap tires per year, and none are lying in large piles, according to Michael Blumenthal, senior technical adviser for the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
“There is no tire problem per se in Vermont because they're picked up by somebody,” Mr. Blumenthal said, adding that haulers take the tires to neighboring states.
The tires are typically processed in Massachusetts or Connecticut into tire-derived fuel or for civil engineering applications in those states or Maine, he said.
“The free market is operating the way it's supposed to be” in New England, Mr. Blumenthal added.
Mr. Sheahan said he charges customers tire disposal fees between $1.50 and $2.50 and has a private hauler pick up the tires once a week.
The indefinite deposit stipulated by the proposed bill would have created problems the state doesn't currently have, Mr. Sheahan claimed. Scammers, for example, could take advantage of the $5-$10 refund and turn Vermont into “the dumping ground of New England,” he said.
Mr. Blumenthal agreed with that assessment, noting that tires are impossible to track and that a deposit fee would open the door for people to take advantage of the system.