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No more excuses for improper disposal of tires

January 07, 2009
It is estimated that more than 290 million tires are replaced on cars, trucks and other vehicles in the United States every year. For a long time, disposing of the old tires has been a problem, and the solution varies from state to state, and even, sometimes, county to county. But now, almost every county in Indiana has a place where old tires can be taken and recycled.

These tires, dumped along a country road, have been stacked and are ready for a county dump truck to pick up. Used tires can be taken to the Solid Waste Management District for disposal, but there is a small fee for each tire. Obviously, some refuse to pay even a minimal amount to recycle the tires. (Photo by Lee Cable)
All a person has to do is drive along a rural road in Southern Indiana, look in a creek or on a river bank, and the disposal method of many unscrupulous tire dealers and individuals is obvious. Many states, including Indiana, have mandatory disposal fees collected at the time new tires are purchased at tire dealerships. In Indiana, the used tires are then picked up, supposedly by a state-certified hauler, and taken to tire recycling centers. The haulers are paid from the fees collected by the tire dealers.

"We charge our customers a $2.25 recycling fee for every tire we replace," Bill Walker, who owns Big O Tires in Corydon, said. "Then, we, like most tire dealers, have a state-certified hauler pick up the tires for disposal. We actually spend about $1,000 a month to have them hauled away. We've had several people stop by and offer to haul away our tires cheaper, but I don't give them but about five seconds of my time. We only use state-certified haulers. And these days, if a person is caught disposing of used tires illegally, they're in deep trouble."

Although some who throw used tires along roadsides and in creeks are never caught, that number is dwindling every year as law enforcement officers are becoming more and more aware of the seriousness of the problem and keep an eye out for those who dump tires.

And now, both Crawford and Harrison counties have Solid Waste Management Districts that will accept used tires, for a small fee, and the tires will be recycled.

"We accept used tires at all three recycling sites," Crawford County SWMD Director Tina Bowman said. "If someone has several tires, we prefer they bring them to the Marengo site, but we'll take them at (English and Leavenworth, also). We charge $1.25 for regular automobile tires and $2.50 if they include a rim. Tires from semi-trailers cost more, and, actually, the larger the tire, the more we charge to recycle them."

The Crawford County SWMD, with help from a grant, held a "Tire Day" a few years ago, which proved to be successful. But the grant, which came from the Crawford County Health Department, aimed at controlling mosquito populations, has been much smaller or not available recently.

"The year, we had the 'Tire Day,' when we accepted tires free of charge — we got a lot of tires," Bowman said. "I think we got between 3,000 and 4,000 tires that day. But we still get quite a few tires through the year. Last year, we took in over 700 tires, and about 600 of those were regular automobile tires."

The Crawford County SWMD will take used tires any day the centers are open.

In Harrison County, the SWMD will take tires on Fridays only, and only at the center on Progress Boulevard in Corydon.

"We charge $1.50 each to take regular automobile tires," Director Pam Wate said. "And we charge $3 more if they are on a rim. We charge $7 for a 20-inch tire, $12 for a small tractor tire and $55 for a large tractor tire, 28 inches or bigger. This is really just a service for the people of the county. We really don't make much from used tires. The tires are picked up here by CCE Inc. from New Albany. They are then shredded and used for playgrounds and other uses."

For years, there wasn't much use for old tires. Some, which were good casings, were used for recapping. The day of the recapped tire has passed, except for large implement tires, but several uses have now been found for old tires.

The largest fraction of reclaimed tires, about 45 percent, according to the EPA, are incinerated as a fuel. Scrap tires can either be incinerated whole or shredded first and then incinerated. Tire rubber contains about the same energy density as oil, and its emissions contain fewer toxins than coal. Most incinerated tires are used by the cement industry to manufacture clinker, one of the steps in the cement making process. Some tires are burned in paper pulp mills and by power utilities.

Old tires can also be used, after the steel belting has been removed, to manufacture floor mats, belts, shoe soles and washers.

One of the fastest growing applications for scrap tires is to grind them into a granular texture, called crumb rubber, and use them as aggregate, which can be used in asphalt for roadways. Adding rubber to asphalt increases the longevity of the roadway and improves driving conditions. Shredded rubber can also be used in civil engineering applications, such as subgrade fill and embankments and septic system drain fields.

Another use for crumb rubber is in recreational facilities, such as athletic fields and running track surfaces, and can be added to soil in grass playing fields to increase resilience and drainage.

In Harrison County, two separate piles were dumped beside the road recently in the southern part of the county. Those were picked up by the county highway department, which has to haul them to the SWMD for disposal. But it costs the taxpayers every time the illegal dumps are cleaned up.

The same thing takes place in Crawford County when tires are dumped beside the roads.

"We pick them up and haul them to the recycling center," Crawford County Highway Department Superintendent Lee Holzbog said. "But we also try to find the source — who dumped them."

To contact the Crawford County SWMD, call 338-2728. The Harrison County SWMD can be reached at 738-8415.

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