hits 20 years of scrap tire leadership
Twenty years ago, the United States was littered
with more than 1 billion stockpiled scrap tires and only 11 percent
of the annually generated scrap tires were sent to an end use
market. The tire manufacturing industry was contending with a
nascent scrap tire industry and a Congress that wanted results.
Rather than going from bad to worse, scrap tire management underwent
a radical turnaround. Today, only 100 million stockpiled scrap
tires remain and the number continues to shrink. While only one
viable market for scrap tires existed in 1990, today several
markets exist that consume nearly 85 percent of annually generated
scrap tires. These markets have made scrap tires into a valuable
commodity and have improved the environment.
A significant factor in this transformation from environmental
problem to environmental success story was a tire manufacturer-led
initiative. In 1990, the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA)
created the Scrap Tire Management Council (STMC), an organization
focused on developing end use markets for scrap tires and assisting
in the abatement of stockpiled tires. Although the functions
of the STMC were later absorbed by RMA, the mission, commitment
and effort did not change.
“RMA and its tire manufacturer members recognized a serious environmental
issue and invested significant resources, time and effort to
make positive changes,” said Charles Cannon, RMA president and
CEO. “At a time when many things could have gone terribly wrong
for the industry, tire manufacturers stepped up and did the right
thing at the right time. Having achieved major success over the
past two decades, RMA and our members have not relented and continue
to work with a broad spectrum of scrap tire industry stakeholders
and regulators to ensure that these successes are not reversed,”
Since 1990, RMA’s scrap tire efforts have been spearheaded by
Michael Blumenthal, who began as the Scrap Tire Management Council’s
executive director and is now a vice president at RMA.
Blumenthal identified a key shortcoming of the scrap tire industry
– a lack of information. “One of the first efforts we undertook
was to collect, develop and distribute timely and pertinent information
to the scrap tire industry,” Blumenthal said. “Between 1990 and
1996 reports and documents on virtually every facet of the industry
were published. Information collection and distribution remains
a critical practice to this day.”
Another challenge was market development. In 1990, only one viable
market for scrap tires existed – tire-derived fuel (TDF). The
scrap tire industry was trying to develop other markets, but
the technology and market opportunities did not materialize until
1994. In the early 1990s Congress was actively considering scrap
tire legislation, and enacted a mandate to use ground rubber
in federally-funded asphalt pavement projects. The result of
that mandate was a disaster and taught a powerful lesson to the
emerging scrap tire industry.
“The scrap tire industry was under pressure to develop non-TDF
markets at a time when the industry was not prepared for such
an effort,” Blumenthal said. “One of the very expensive lessons
that had to be learned by government agencies was that the scrap
tire industry has always been a demand-pull industry. Subsidizing
the supply of processed scrap tires when the demand for it doesn’t
exist causes over-supply, falling prices and failing businesses.
The Congressional mandate for road construction caused more problems
than it solved,” Blumenthal noted.
“Today the scrap tire industry faces new challenges from a wide
array of sources. As scrap tire-derived products move into new
markets, new questions and issues have arisen,” Blumenthal said.
“The recession has hit states hard financially and many have
been diverting scrap tire funds to finance other state programs.
We continue to fight these diversions so that progress to date
is not reversed. Additionally, we are currently fighting an Environmental
Protection Agency proposed regulation that would effectively
ruin the tire derived fuel market, which still accounts for 50
percent of the market for scrap tires. This could lead to more
stockpiles and greater risk of environmentally dangerous tire
Blumenthal added, “Our determination and resolve remain steadfast,
as does our commitment to the industry and the environment. As
the quote goes, ‘it ain’t over till it’s over!’ I believe that’s
a very good way to describe our approach to scrap tires management.”