Environmentalists are pleased with a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to reclassify tire-derived fuel (TDF) and other non-traditional, non-hazardous fuels as solid wastes, but representatives from the tire and cement industries cautioned the change would cause great harm to the scrap tire industry and the environment.
The solid waste incinerator proposal, if made final, would redefine TDF and other non-hazardous materials as solid waste, which means any unit that burned them would have to be classified as solid waste incinerators under the Clean Air Act.
Many in the tire, cement and other industries said they believe this would spell the end of using tires as fuel, because the additional regulatory cost of maintaining solid waste incinerators over industrial boilers would price TDF out of the market.
The proposed change is the result of a ruling in 2007 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that determined the EPA should have used a more stringent section of the Clean Air Act in its legislation for the burning of alternative fuels at industrial facilities. The solid waste change is one of three massive EPA-proposed rulestotaling 860 manuscript pagesdesigned to reduce emissions of mercury and other pollutants from industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and solid waste incinerators. Aug. 3 was the deadline for comments.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) said the proposed rule, as written, would define all scrap tires as solid waste, meaning that only TDF that had undergone processingsuch as TDF targeted for the pulp and paper marketwould be considered fuel. Whole or roughly shredded tires intended for cement kilns would be defined as solid waste.
(The) RMA estimates that fewer than 100 million tires remain in stockpiles, compared to estimates of 1 billion in 1990, the association said. However, depending on the outcome of the rulemaking, the United States could again see the number of scrap tires in stockpiles rise.
TDF, which has been used as an industrial fuel in the U.S. since the late 1970s, clearly merits being classified as a traditional fuel in the final rule, the RMA said. It also said it supported the agency's stance in the advance notice of the proposed rule, which was that annually generated scrap tiresas opposed to stockpiled tiresdid not qualify as solid waste.
The Tire Industry Association (TIA) and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) echoed the RMA's concerns.
It is difficult to fathom the agency considering a rulemaking that could block the end-use of what is generally believed to be over 50 percent of all recycled tires, TIA said in its comments.
The scrap tire marketplace would collapse without TDF, according to TIA. Our recycling members have expressed concerns in no uncertain terms that they do not foresee the viability of their operations if TDF becomes a solid waste, it said.
ISRI said although its preference is to see scrap tires used in value-added products such as rubberized asphalt and landscaping mulch, the balance of supply and demand dictates that some tires must be used as an energy source.
Scrap tire recyclers have created a successful market for the generators of tires to economically and environmentally deal with their materials at the end of life, ISRI said. With no environmentally friendly market for recycling, the end result may be the reintroduction of illegal scrap tire piles.
The Cement Kiln Recycling Coalition (CKRC) called the solid waste proposal a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The EPA and the cement kiln industry have worked together for 20 years to foster a mutually beneficial program of using TDF and other secondary materials as fuel in cement kilns, the CKRC said.
And, ironically, EPA's proposals would destroy these markets and technologies without advancing any of the environmental and human health goals to which the agency claims to be committed, it said. The proposed rules are arbitrary, capricious, irrational and not a product of reasoned decision-making.
State environmental agencies, as well as organizations representing them, commented generally that they preferred to maintain authority over the use of non-hazardous secondary materials within their borders.
The Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association, representing the solid waste programs in New York, New Jersey and the New England states, said its members want to ensure they can maximize the diversion of non-hazardous secondary materials from disposal toward productive uses.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality recommended the EPA exclude whole or shredded tires from being defined as solid waste when used for heat recovery.
Grace Griffith, vice chair of the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the EPA solid waste incinerator proposal was a simple case of environmental justice for rural areas, where much of the burning of non-traditional fuels takes place.
The impacts from burning non-traditional materials are poorly understood, have almost no regulatory history and would be more effectively regulated as solid wastes.