AKRON (Nov. 5, 2007) — Most independent tire dealers probably haven't given much thought to the recent federal appeals court ruling on the Clean Air Act definition of tire derived fuel (TDF).
After all, if the worn-out tires dealerships take off their customers' vehicles each week are picked up by a licensed hauler and disposed of legally, then who cares after that? Out of sight, out of mind.
Scrap tires are not a tire dealer's primary business. Selling new ones are.
However, this is an issue tire dealers and all others in the tire industry should not ignore because it could have a huge impact on their businesses.
With the environmental movement gaining steam in the U.S., it's uncertain exactly how this dilemma will be resolved.
At issue is the recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that determined the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should have used a more stringent section of the Clean Air Act in its regulations for the burning of alternative fuels—including TDF and waste oil—at industrial facilities.
The potential effect of this ruling, which has not yet resulted in any changes, could be devastating to the scrap tire industry, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), which is working with the EPA to resolve this issue.
The bottom line is that the EPA now has to go back and rewrite the regulations. In the meantime, the future of TDF remains uncertain as does that of the entire scrap tire industry.
If the EPA determines that TDF and other alternative fuels should be regulated under the more stringent Section 129 of the Clean Air Act, which governs hazardous waste incinerators, this would likely destroy what has become an efficient scrap tire pickup and recycling industry and return it to the old days.
And those weren't the “good old days.” That was a time when giant stockpiles with millions of tires dotted the landscape and every once in a while one of them would catch fire, sending billows of acrid black smoke into the air for days if not weeks at a time, while run-off from burning residue threatened groundwater.
Millions upon millions of tires also were put in landfills, taking up valuable space for garbage and other waste.
It has taken the tire industry more than 20 years to get the scrap tire problem in the U.S. under control. Most large tire piles have been cleaned up, and industries and markets have been developed that now collectively consume more than 85 percent of the tires that are discarded each year.
RMA, the Tire Industry Association and other groups representing industries impacted by the recent court ruling are working to resolve this issue and keep TDF from being regulated under Section 129.
The best that tire dealers and others in the tire business can do is keep a close eye on this issue and support the efforts of their industry associations.