For many years, USTMA has promoted effective scrap tire legislation and regulations to prevent end-of-life tires from becoming an environmental blight. We support improvements in scrap tire markets and reductions in stockpiled tires. We continue to advocate for strong, market-based state programs with real enforcement behind them to deter illegal dumping and the re-emergence of stockpiles.
The management of scrap tires has been a priority for USTMA members for more than three decades. States continued to reduce Illegal or abandoned stockpiled tires from the U.S. EPA estimate of over 1 billion in 1990 to less than 50 million nationwide in 2021. This over 95% reduction is the result of decades of progress developing the scrap tire recycling industry, and remediating stockpile sites.
The percentage of tires consumed in economically viable, and environmentally-sound end-use markets has increased from 11 percent of the scrap tires generated in 1990 to about 71 percent of the scrap tires generated in 2021. Today, scrap tires are one of the most recycled products in the U.S. For more information, see USTMA’s 2021 Scrap Tire Management Report.
USTMA works with stakeholders, including states, the U.S. EPA and the industry, to incentivize market development and advance federal and state regulations that foster sustainable scrap tire markets. While 71 percent of scrap tires currently go to scrap tire markets, the past several years have seen annual scrap tire generation rates outpacing the number of tires recycled. This highlights the need for a greater emphasis on growing end-use markets.
Sustainable scrap tire markets with significant growth potential include:
- Ground Rubber Applications: Ground rubber is produced by grinding scrap tires into different sized pieces. Metal and fabric can be removed, and the granules are sized for specific applications. Among its uses: new rubber products, landscaping mulch, rubber mats, and rubber modified asphalt. In 2019, the ground rubber market consumed about 25 percent of the nation’s scrap tires (62 million tires).
- Civil Engineering: Tire shreds are increasingly used instead of raw materials (e.g., sand, clay) for road and landfill construction, stormwater infiltration galleries, septic tank leach fields, and numerous other construction applications. The benefits include vibration and sound control as well as lightweight fill to prevent erosion and landslides. Tires also facilitate drainage in septic, leachate and landfill gas systems. The civil engineering market consumed over 19 million tons of tires in 2019, about 8 percent of the total.