Waste tire management efforts in Missouri, Virginia and California

Mary Ellen Lea
Solid Waste Collection Superintendent
City of Columbia, Missouri
Member, APWA Solid Waste Management Committee

Waste tire piles across the nation are environmental hazards. The spread of the West Nile Virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, has brought tire piles to the attention of public works officials, state, county and city leaders, and the general public. There are a variety of methods for cleanup of tire piles and recycling and reuse of waste tires. In general, states adopt a tire fee at the sale of tires that supports cleanup efforts and research for reusing waste tire material. Following is a summary of three different states' efforts to manage waste tire problems.

Waste tire cleanup efforts in Missouri
An environment free of waste tires is important to the public health of all Missouri citizens. Waste tires harbor mosquitoes, snakes and other vermin. The West Nile Virus is a serious health threat. The virus is spreading through Missouri, and seven people died from it in 2002. The removal of waste tires in Missouri is a priority for the Solid Waste Management Program's Waste Tire Unit. Missouri citizens generate approximately five million waste tires annually.

By 1990 illegal tire piles in Missouri had become so widespread that the Missouri Legislature passed Senate Bill 530. This legislation allowed waste tires to be regulated as a significant part of the waste generated in this state and established the waste tire fee. All waste tire activities are implemented with the revenue received from the fifty-cent fee on purchases of new tires.

By 1995, Senate Bills 60 and 112 were enacted by the Missouri Legislature to make several adjustments to the department's waste tire efforts. The fifty-cent fee was redistributed: 65% for tire site cleanups; 25% for administration; 5% for educational programs and curricula on solid waste management; and 5% for grants. This fee was extended once in 1999. The fee expired in January 2004, and was not extended by the legislature. The department will continue to remove as many waste tires from Missouri's environment until the fund balance is completely expended. The department estimates more than three million tires will remain scattered across Missouri's roadsides and communities. The department is launching a campaign for the 2004 legislative session to reinstate the tire fee.

The program works to protect and improve the environment by developing a waste tire management system that creates economic incentives for the proper management of waste tires in Missouri. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources Solid Waste Management Program manages the waste tire cleanup efforts in the state. There are ten full-time employees that serve the entire state in these cleanup efforts.

  Tire pile in Missouri

Since the waste tire cleanup program began, 12,095,672 tires have been removed from the environment. This has been accomplished through 403 total tire cleanup events. There are still 2,902,501 tires identified for cleanup efforts. And, the Department estimates another one million tires in unknown dump sites.

Through a series of news releases and public announcements, the Department of Natural Resources offered to pay up to 90% of the cost of removal to property owners who have tire piles containing 500 to 20,000 tires. Between November 1, 2002 and April 30, 2003, more than 500 calls allowed the Department's Waste Tire Unit to enlist the cooperation of private property owners interested in cleaning up waste tires.

Two hundred of these calls came from property owners who had less than 500 tires, or from local governments who wanted to conduct regional tire cleanups or to assist non-profit groups in obtaining reimbursement for small site tire cleanups.

More than 100 calls came from property owners who reported piles of 500 to 20,000 tires. Seventeen of these were known sites. Ninety-eight new dumpsites containing a total of 380,000 tires were discovered. Fifty calls were from citizens who reported tire dumps on someone else's property. This success wouldn't have been possible without the participation of many communities and private citizens helping to ensure that we all will enjoy a healthier, safer environment.

Funds paid out for waste tire cleanup last year amounted to $1,960,361. The total dollar amount disbursed for the cleanup efforts since the beginning of the effort in 1990 is $10,423,842. Where do Missouri's tires go? Approximately 10% of the tires have been ground into playground surfaces and roadbed application, 10% have been landfilled, and 5% unknown. The remaining 75% of the tires have been used for tire-derived fuel.

Information provided by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Solid Waste Management Program. More detailed information can be obtained at their website: www.dnr.state.mo.us/alpd/swmp/tires/tiresum.htm.

Waste tire pile cleanups in Virginia
In 1989, the Virginia General Assembly established a tire fee of $0.50 per tire to clean up tire piles that dated as far back as the 1930s. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) developed a plan for the transportation and management of all waste tires. The plan included the following key components:

  • Determine the number, location and size of all tire piles.
  • Establish more recycling opportunities for tires by capturing the current flow so no more tires would be stockpiled.
  • Move the tire piles into these recycling opportunities rather than landfilling.

While the tire fee allowed the DEQ to make headway cleaning up the tire piles, it was not sufficient to complete the job, as evidenced in the 2002 tire fire in Roanoke County. More than three million tires burned for 30 days and cost $3 million in cleanup efforts.

Since 1993, the DEQ has documented 1,076 tire piles containing 23,923,801 tires. Cleanup efforts have successfully removed or recycled 698 of the 1,076 tire piles. In 2003, the General Assembly passed an act to increase the $0.50 tire recycling fee to $1.00 to provide funds to clean up the remaining piles.

The statewide tire pile cleanup effort includes several types of cleanups. First, Demonstration Projects were conducted to determine contractor capabilities, methods in harsh terrains, locality participation and protection of critical piles. These projects managed nine piles including 2,866,500 tires at an expense of $1,619,000. Seventy-three piles were cleaned up through Regional Collection and Processing Projects. Fifteen regional projects established collection centers for tire recycling at public landfills. These locations collected 1,739,014 tires at a cost of $1,675,813. Today, 85 landfills continue to collect tires for recycling.

Owner cleanup projects resulted from letters sent to pile owners with follow-up from regional office staff. Many pile owners have cleaned their own tire piles. Most of these piles were small, averaging only 3,500 tires. Few owners of large piles have cleaned them up on their own. These efforts resulted in 481 piles being managed for a total of 1,663,939 tires, costs unknown.

The final type of cleanup effort is the End User Reimbursement Program. Authorized by the 1993 General Assembly to the basic program initiated in 1989, this program pays $30 per ton to the end user of waste tire material. End users include producers of recycled rubber products, tire fuel burners, and civil engineering applications. Begun in 1994, this cleanup effort has managed 135 piles (10,346,625 tires) at an expense of $5,590,562. The Reimbursement Program amount was increased over the years and is now $100 per ton effective July 1, 2003. Each increase resulted in a sharp increase in tire pile cleanup efforts, particularly the large piles.

The increase of the tire recycling fee from $0.50 to $1.00 by the 2003 General Assembly has allowed the DEQ to continue to focus on tire pile cleanups. Today they have two strategies: Strategies for Large Piles, which targeted five remaining large piles, and Strategies for Small Piles. The plan sought to eliminate these piles. Spurred on by the Roanoke fire as the basis for requesting the increase in the reimbursement rate, four of the large piles have been cleaned up. The remaining large pile is scheduled for a multi-bid cleanup project which will be completed in late 2004. In addition to the original five piles in the plan, an additional three large piles have been cleaned up during this project.

The Strategies for Small Piles targets the remaining piles averaging 8,500 tires. Due to their smaller size and the fact that these piles are more difficult to access, they are not attractive to contractors for the $100/ton reimbursement. So, the DEQ asked the tire processors located in Virginia to accept pile tires at little or no cost if delivered to their location. All ten tire processors agreed. Next, the DEQ sent letters to all small pile owners informing them of the service and offering assistance. A small amount of financial assistance is offered to these pile owners to complete the tire pile cleanups.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has been using a number of approaches in cleaning up tire piles in their state. The efforts have been very successful. To date, 698 piles of the first identified 1,076 piles have been eliminated. With the additional resources provided by the fee increase of July 1, 2003, the DEQ will continue with innovative strategies to remove all remaining piles.

Information provided by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. More detailed information can be obtained at their website: www.deq.state.va.us/wastetires.

Waste tire management in California
In 1989 the California Legislature passed the California Tire Recycling Act which authorized the Tire Management and Recycling Fund supported by a $1.00 fee on the sale of tires in the state. The California Integrated Waste Management Board manages the fund and works with local governments, industries and the public to find new uses for waste tires. The board's tire management program includes:

  • Development of technical standards and permit requirements for waste tire facilities.
  • Registration of used and waste tire haulers.
  • Enforcement actions against illegal tire facilities.
  • Investigation into used and waste tire hauler and waste tire facility/storage complaints.
  • Research and development supporting markets for tire-derived products.
  • Technical and financial assistance to local governments.

The state generates 31 million reusable and waste tires annually. Board staff estimates that 65% of these tires are diverted into various reuses including combustion, recycling and retreading. The remaining tires are shredded and disposed in permitted solid waste landfills, stored at permitted facilities or otherwise illegally disposed of around the state.

Two employees of an energy conversion plant in Westley, California, survey waste tires that formerly provided feedstock for the plant. The plant ceased operations after a tire fire destroyed the stockpile in 1999. (Copyright 1997 by the California Integrated Waste Management Board. used by permission. All rights reserved.)

The board adopted a five-year plan for Waste Tire Recycling Management establishing goals and priorities. The plan is revised and updated and submitted to the State Legislature every two years. The current plan was submitted to the Legislature in June 2003. California has doubled the number of waste tires recycling since 1991; however, tires coming into the state or being generated exceed these efforts. Millions of tires are illegally dumped, posing potential environmental threats. Within the last five years California has experienced two waste-tire pile fires; these fires resulted in 12 million tires burning and considerable environmental damage and negative local residential impact. The cleanup of one fire took three years at a cost of $17 million. The other fire cleanup efforts are estimated at $9 million.

The board has utilized contractors to stabilize or remediate illegal waste tire piles. Since 1995 more than 12.8 million illegal waste tires from 46 sites, at an average removal cost of $0.67 per tire for a total cost of nearly $6.9 million, have been removed. Of the 12.8 million illegal waste tires removed since 1995, approximately 77% went to a productive end use and 23% to landfills. While the number of sites remediated each year has remained almost constant, the cost of cleanup has varied significantly depending on the number of large projects undertaken that year.

In addition to the illegal waste tire pile cleanup efforts, the tire fund also supports research directed at developing alternatives for landfill disposal of waste tires. To date, projects involving rubber-modified asphalt, civil engineering uses, energy recovery, molded rubber products, and projects that produce crumb rubber have been funded.

The Integrated Waste Management Board has provided education and promoted the use of shredded waste tires as an alternative to lightweight fill in highway construction projects. The board has worked with the California Department of Transportation engineering staff giving short courses on the use of the shredded tires and providing technical and environmental information to agencies overseeing the construction of highway projects. As a result, the California Department of Transportation identified two highway construction projects where the shredded tires were used successfully.

In another environmental civil engineering project, the shredded tire material was used as a vibration-dampening material in a light rail system. This project was constructed in 2002 and has been successful. The board continues to research and develop alternative uses for waste tire material.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board will continue to focus on the areas of tire permitting and enforcement activities and waste tire recycling and market development. The permitting and enforcement actions will ensure that reusable and waste tires are transported and stored under environmentally safe conditions. The recycling activities will continue to focus on financial assistance, recycling and marketing research, and providing technical assistance.

Information provided by the California Integrated Waste Management Board. More detailed information can be obtained at their website: www.ciwmb.ca.gov/Tires.

Mary Ellen Lea can be reached at (573) 874-6297 or at Melea@GoColumbiaMo.com.