Michigan Program Cuts into Scrap Tire Piles

Michigan has been cleaning up its illegal scrap tire piles since 1991, with the passage of "Part 169," the Scrap Tire Cleanup Program. The Michigan legislature is looking at ways to continue the program.

Each year since 1992, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has awarded grants to clean up scrap tire collection sites and illegal dump sites of tire piles that have been in existence prior to 1991.

Grant money comes from the fee collected per used tire by tire retailers who sell new tires. In the fiscal year 2001-2002 Michigan had $600,000 to award. This year it will be used to clean up over 470,000 tires at nine different sites around the state.

The number of applications has always exceeded the funds that are available.

Julie Vallier, MDEQ department analyst explained that for the current fiscal year MDEQ received more than 40 applications asking for more than $3 million.

Applicants can seek funding: if they own a site that has abandoned scrap tires, but they are not responsible in whole or part for the accumulation of the scrap tires; if they are a retail scrap tire collection site and have at least 1,500 scrap tires which were accumulated before January 1, 1991 and the tires are still on site; if they are a non-retail scrap tire collection site containing at least 500 scrap tires which were accumulated before January 1, 1991 and the tires are still on site; or is an automotive recycling operation with at least 2,500 scrap tires which were accumulated before January 1, 1991, and the tires still remain on site. There are other conditions that applicants must meet as well.

When choosing who will receive the grants, the DEQ looks at the following: actual or potential involvement of a site in an urban renewal/economic development; actual or potential impacts to public health, such as fire hazards posed, potential for air contamination from a fire, risk from mosquito transmitted diseases and safety/injury potential; actual or potential adverse impacts to the environment and natural resources; degree of support and commitment for the project from the local community; existing cleanup efforts; effectiveness of proposed removal efforts; and certainty the grant money will be spent for intended purpose, among other criteria.

Ms. Vallier said, "Many applicants don't have the documentation to prove that the tires have been there since before 1991. Other applicants have received money before and they are not eligible for another grant. We are trying to share the wealth. Also the Michigan Department of Natural Resources usually get a small amount of money to clean up some of the illegal dumps on public land."

The documentation usually shows that the district DEQ inspection staff had been to the site in the past, or that the fire department in the area was at the site to document the tire piles in case of fire. People also have to have proof of property ownership.

Ms. Vallier said, "Some places register with the fire department, especially large sites that have a couple million tires. They set up fire lanes so if there is a fire at a site, this allows departments to get in there to fight fires."

Since the first grants were awarded in 1992, Michigan has awarded $6.8 million in grants. This has been used to clean up 203,445 truck tires and 5.3 million passenger tires. There is not a count for the number of agricultural tires that have been collected.

The program reimburses the grantees. The tires first have to be taken care of in a way that is acceptable to the DEQ. The participants are then reimbursed after an invoice is provided and the district DEQ staff has done an inspection that the tires have been removed.

Ms. Vallier said, "Those who are eligible have to let us know how the tires will be handled with state registered scrap tire haulers. The tires have to go to a registered collection site, such as a facility that shreds tires or end users for tire-derived fuel (TDF). Depending on where the tires are going, it will be determined how much they receive per tire. For example, if a tire is being shred for the landfill, they may receive 90 cents per tire. If the tire is being shredded for TDF, they may receive $1.20 per tire."

Michigan legislators are currently looking at changes for the scrap tire program and looking at ways to increase the use of TDF.

Lavon Detweiler, president of Entech, Inc., a tire recycling facility, has been hired by land owners and governments to clean up tire piles. He said that the projects are about one-third of his business. Entech also does work in other states.

Mr. Detweiler said that the program is good overall, but feels Michigan should make some revisions. Other states have a bid system, and instead of having the money go through the land owner, it goes directly from the state to the recycler. Mr. Detweiler said there is a chance for corruption with the current system and that changing it could remove that element.

"Overall Michigan has done a wonderful job with the program," Mr. Detweiler said. "The state has put at least $600,000 each year into cleaning up the tires. The DEQ has a very competent staff in charge of the program."

He added, "Michigan also has developed a market for the recycled tires around the clean-up program. Instead of there being a chance of material getting thrown away, it is being used as TDF. The market is steady and there is not a glut of TDF material the way they have set things up. Michigan has done an excellent job of stretching the money they have available for the program. I hope the changes being discussed will allow it to continue."

House Bill 5380 sponsored by Michigan State Representative David Mead (R-Frankfort) is looking at three issues: a new definition for "scrap tire processed material," the bonding requirements for facilities; and if there will be a limit to the number of employees in the statutory language, as it was passed out of the Michigan house.

Another issue the Michigan legislature is looking at is increasing the fee collected for each used tire when new tires are purchased. Currently the fee is $0.50 and the proposed bill in the Michigan senate would increase this to $1.50, to help increase funds to clean up historic sites of accumulated tires.

Ms. Vallier said that the scrap tire cleanup program has been successful. If it was not in place, the tires that have been removed would still be there. It has also brought awareness and made sites with larger amounts of tires safe and created easier access for fire departments.

In a DEQ report to the Michigan senate and house committees on environmental quality, it said, "The implementation and enforcement of Part 169 by the DEQ have resulted in the development of substantial scrap tire markets. This has created a viable atmosphere for the scrap tire industry, without the need for financial governmental subsidies. The market capacity for TDF and other approved scrap tire uses now exceeds the current annual generation rate and affords sufficient capacity to handle scrap tires that have been accumulated in scrap tire piles in a reasonable timeframe. The capacity of Michigan's scrap tire processors is sufficient to process these tires…"