Don't Tread on Me

December 5, 2002

The nation's rate of recycling materials or products from worn-out tires has tripled since 1990, reducing or eliminating huge piles of old tires that once dotted the landscape, according to a report issued by the Rubber Manufacturers Association.

State programs that charge a small recycling fee for new tires have created markets for old tires, ranging from electricity production to more shock-absorbing and durable athletic fields.

  • In 1990, only 25 percent of scrap tires were reused -- but last year, the reuse rate rose to 78 percent.
  • Since 1994, the number of scrap tires that were accumulating in standing piles has dropped from an estimated 800 million to about 300 million, according to the association.

The association credits Minnesota's legislature with creating the pioneer tire-reuse program in 1985, when that state imposed a $1 fee on consumers for each new tire and used the money to find uses for the four million tires scrapped there every year.

  • The Minnesota program cleaned up the state's tire piles and found so many paying markets for old tires that the state has since eliminated the fee.
  • Illinois's program, which copied Minnesota's approach, has been so effective, according to the association, that the state exhausted its scrap-tire supply and now imports about six million old tires from other states to feed its markets.

The tire-removal programs have been largely conducted without federal policy guidance.

Source: John J. Fialka, "States' Fee Programs for Tires Yield Big Gain in Recycling Rate," The Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2002.

 

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