EPA Decision Preserves Scrap Tire Markets

Scrap tires okay for fuel use. Ruling validates the economic and environmental viability of the tire recycling industry.

It was a long time coming but last month’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ruling to continue to allow scrap tires to be used as fuel is a landmark decision for the tire recycling industry.

Eagle International

It’s announcement drew a collective round of surprise, relief and cautious optimism from tire recyclers, state scrap tire program managers and the many industry trade groups that lobbied EPA to deliver a rule that would preserve scrap tire markets.

All had feared that scrap tires might be defined as solid waste making them subject to more stringent and cost-prohibitive combustion requirements. At stake was a well-established tire derived fuel market that currently consumes more than 50 percent of the scrap tires generated annually in the U.S.

“EPA clearly listened to what the states and industry were telling them,” Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) President Charles Cannon said. “Not only does EPA’s decision preserve tire derived fuel as a viable end-market, it ensures the viability of scrap tire management programs across the country.”

Tire Industry Association President Roy Littlefield agreed, calling EPA’s ruling “a victory for tire recyclers, our members and the industry as a whole.”

Under the new rules issued February 23, annually generated scrap tires (both whole and those that have been shredded with or without metal removed) managed under established tire collection programs are not solid waste and can be burned as non-waste fuel in combustion units.

But discarded tires (defined as those from scrap tire stockpiles) must be processed according to methods set forth in the final rule – including wire removal – before they can be burned as non-waste fuel.

Specifically, the ruling states “… EPA considers that previously discarded tires that have been made into TDF (shredded/chipped), sized, sorted and with a significant portion of the metal belts or wire removed, at a level appropriate for the unit, meets the definition of ‘sufficient processing’.”

Although EPA addresses its rationale for this level of processing in the rule making document, it remains a sticking point for the RMA, tire processors and cement industry fuel users.

The RMA said that, while it recognizes that EPA is still requiring processing of whole tires removed from scrap tire stockpiles, the association plans to continue to encourage EPA to consider a more expansive definition of processing to allow more of these tires to be combusted as tire derived fuel. RMA said it will also continue to evaluate the final rule for additional insights and impacts on the tire industry.

In addition, RMA is reviewing the new Clean Air Act rules for industrial boilers and solid waste incinerators for any limitations on alternative fuels that may result from the boiler standards. The scrap tire final rule is part of this larger set of regulations that establish the new Maximum Achievable Control Technology or Boiler MACT standards. EPA is reconsidering the new boiler rules and plans to seek public comment on new emissions standards for large and small boilers and for solid waste incinerators.

But for now, tire recycling stakeholders are pleased that their comments were considered and that scrap tires will continue to be used as a fuel by cement kilns, pulp and paper mills, electric utilities and as a raw material in hundreds of products and beneficial applications.

© Scrap Tire News, March 2011