Getting Scrap Tires off the Pile and into Recycling

Tom Johnson | September 19, 2016 | Energy & Environment
There are good uses for scrap tires — on kids’ playgrounds and equestrian tracks, for instance — but safe disposal is key

scrap tire pile
With an audit warning that illegal scrap-tire piles are once again piling up across the state, a lawmaker is proposing a bill that would more tightly oversee the safe disposal of used tires.

Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Bergen), the chairman of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste committee, introduced a bill (A-4093) last week that would set up a licensing system requiring all scrap tires be reused or recycled.

The measure was introduced after a state audit this summer found about a dozen new illegal scrap-tire dumps. Further, most facilities authorized to collect the tires failed to comply with regulations governing their handling and safe disposal.

Authorities have long recognized that scrap tires pose public health and environmental threats, including potential fire hazards; they are not easily extinguished if ignited. Tire piles also provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes, a source of West Nile virus.

According to the state audit, 18 of the 26 known major scrap tire piles were found to be out of compliance when visited by officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Some were found to require work to clean up possible contamination on the site, the audit found.

Under the bill introduced by Eustace, the DEP would be required to establish a system for tracking, collecting, and disposing scrap tires. In addition, the bill would require anyone engaging in scrap-tire collection to be licensed by the DEP. All scrap tires would be required to be recycled or reused; the measure would prohibit their disposal as solid waste.

Scrap tires can be recycled as playground cover material, equestrian track surfacing, alternative fuel, and in civil engineering applications, according to the legislation. The bill is intended to promote recycling and prevent illegal dumping of scrap tires.

Of an estimated 29 scrap-tire piles that have been identified, they are believed to contain between approximately 350,000 to 565,00 scrap tires. Still, that is an improvement over the 3 million tires projected to be dumped around the state at one time, before being cleaned up by authorities.

In response to the audit and some of its recommendations, the DEP said illegal scrap tires appear to be a reemerging issue, but noted the vast majority of scrap tires are sent to an appropriate end-use market.

The agency has assigned a new case manager to review and assess the status of all scrap-tire piles. A majority of the inspections have already been conducted and the state is in the process of pursuing compliance at those sites.

The department also plans to conduct flights over the state to identify other potentially illegal scrap-tire piles.