Collaboration on Display at Scrap Tire Recycling Conference

One of the interesting explorers of our time, Robert Swan, said, “the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

Swan is right: The responsibility to care for our planet falls to each of us – as individuals and by working together. The power of collaboration helps us meet this responsibility for impactful change.

Recently, the Scrap Tire Research & Education Foundation (STREF) joined the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, Michelin North America, and the South Carolina Department of Commerce in hosting the 8th Scrap Tire Recycling Conference. With a focus on the circular economy, leading tire manufacturers, auto manufacturers, recyclers, retailers, state officials and environmental regulators from across the country explored opportunities and challenges to grow new and existing markets for scrap tires.

Three important takeaways from the conference came into focus for USTMA:

#1 Markets, markets, markets    

Speakers, panelists and attendees consistently pressed the need to develop new and grow existing end-use markets for scrap tires. Why is this important?  Approximately 250 million scrap tires are discarded in the United States each year and roughly 81% are reused or recycled into other uses. USTMA and its member companies share a long-term goal that 100% of scrap tires enter sustainable end use markets. Closing the gap between that goal and where we are now requires the development of new scrap tire markets that are both economically and environmentally sustainable .

End-use markets and innovations for scrap tires include a wide range of uses, including:

  • Tire derived fuel, providing fuel for pulp and paper mills, electric utilities, and providing fuel and serving as an ingredient for cement kilns.

  • Ground rubber, to support the automotive industry in recycled parts including vehicle floor mats, and building and construction.

  • Rubber modified asphalt, which serves as a durable and efficient infrastructure alternative that outperforms standard asphalt.

  • Micronized rubber powder, which is produced through cryogenic grinding of scrap tires, resulting in an effective alternative to carbon black in the production of new tires.

  • Civil engineering and use in sustainable infrastructure, including tire derived aggregate used in stormwater infiltration galleries.


#2 The need for robust enforcement of state scrap tire laws

There was also consensus around what helps to create and maintain effective state scrap tire programs.  Several stakeholders shared that in order to be successful their state programs must be funded adequately and have effective mechanisms to ensure robust enforcement of state scrap tire laws.

#3 Collaboration and Partnerships

The need for collaboration and information sharing across the industry and throughout the value chain was a prominent point of view among conference goers. Partnerships and collaboration allow the industry to unite resources and expertise – accomplishing more together than any one particular entity could achieve on its own. As recent examples illuminate, Bridgestone’s partnership with Delta-Energy Group and Continental’s work with Pyrolux help the tire manufacturers to scale up the use of recovered carbon (rCB) black in the market, which produces substantially less carbon dioxide emissions per ton than virgin carbon black.  Another example is Michelin’s acquisition of Lehigh Technologies, which uses patented cryogenic turbo mill technology to recycle rubber from used tires. These examples demonstrate major advancements in improving the sustainability of the companies’ products and operations and are illustrative of significant contributions to the circular economy.

The conference underscored the important work being done by numerous stakeholders to advance the circular economy and towards the goal of 100% of scrap tires entering sustainable end-use markets. In 2020, USTMA looks forward to working with our value chain partners to grow existing markets for scrap tires and identify opportunities to spur new market development, advance best practices for enforcement of state scrap tire laws and find opportunities to have a greater dialogue with our partners on scrap tire management as we work towards our 9th Scrap Tire Recycling Conference in 2021.    

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