EPA Releases Scrap Tire Handbook

New publication seeks to accelerate scrap tire market development efforts in the U.S.-Mexico border region using experience-based information Scrap tires are a concern for Mexico, with many scrap tire piles concentrated throughout the U.S – Mexico border region.

In addition to the numerous environmental and public health concerns that scrap tire piles can raise in communities, they represent a vastly underutilized market for recycled materials. Now, a just-released scrap tire resource handbook has a variety of viable options for the Mexico border region to take advantage of the scrap tire market. Scrap Tires: Handbook on Recycling Applications and Management for the U.S. and Mexico is a roadmap for federal, state and local governments along with private industry for developing markets for scrap tires and valuable tire-derived materials.

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“The publication has been years in the making and provides a wealth of information on addressing scrap tires,” Rick Picardi, Acting Chief, of the International and Transportation Branch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and project manager for the Scrap Tire Handbook, said. Prominent experts in the scrap tire field provided much of the content, Picardi said.

The handbook is both unique and useful in the fact that it presents information and lessons learned from those who have established and effectively managed scrap tire programs. It gives in-depth, modern-day coverage to the three main market segments –energy use, tire-derived aggregate and ground rubber. Information-packed chapters have specific market details and applications showing how each of these recycling methods is driving the tire recycling industry.

Tire recyclers will be especially interested in the book’s discussion of transportation and processing economics. Economic analysis is critical to any scrap tire program success but it is rarely covered in tire recycling presentations or discussions.

Chapter Six of thehandbook takes on the task. The chapter is replete with clear explanations of real-life numbers and economic values for all aspects of tire handling from collection, transportation and processing to market identification, potential and distribution. Charts, graphs and other comparative tools present a balanced look at what to consider before implementation of a tire recycling operation.

This economic analysis along with the technical, environmental, and reference information provided for major scrap tire recycling applications allow industry and government stakeholders to assess, prioritize, target, and develop markets as efficiently and rapidly as possible.

For energy use, the handbook points out that scrap tires can be an environmentally compatible alternative energy resource when used in appropriate applications.

To date, energy use is recognized as an important component of successful scrap tire management programs within the United States because of its ability to allow scrap tires to be used productively.

The net result has been substantial conservation of non-renewable fossil fuels. Good scrap tire management programs recognize the importance of diverse applications, the Handbook states. Thus, when the demonstrated performance of tires as an energy resource is objectively evaluated, many jurisdictions have concluded that the environment is better served by recognizing the value of this resource rather than wasting it while waiting for ideal solutions.

The Handbook goes on to say that the use of scrap tires in civil engineering applications, in some cases , can be a viable alternative to tire-derived fuel. This is because tire derived aggregate (TDA), an engineered product made by cutting scrap tires into 25- to 300-millimeter (mm) pieces, has inherent properties that provide many solutions to geotechnical challenges.

Since it is lightweight, TDA produces low lateral pressures on walls It is a good thermal insulator, in fact, eight times better than soil. TDA has high permeability, good shear strength, and absorbs vibrations. When used in appropriate applications, TDA’s special properties can greatly reduce construction costs and effectively consume significant volumes of scrap tire material. Each cubic meter of TDA fill contains the equivalent of 100 passenger car tires, the Handbook said.

True to its theme, the Handbook looks at ground rubber applications within the context of traditional recycling hierarchy and examines their role in advancing scrap tire markets throughout the U.S.-Mexico border regions.

One thing the Handbook makes clear is the highest-value applications for scrap tires use ground rubber and that as ground rubber markets develop, scrap tires will naturally be diverted to products with higher value. Typical applications range from animal mattresses and traffic cones to athletic surfaces and as additive to asphalt.

However, the Handbook points out, these applications have historically developed slowly and do not consume large volumes of tires. So, while they are not the primary focus of new scrap tire management programs for the U.S- Mexico border regions described in the Handbook, ground rubber markets can be an important long-term component of scrap tire use while initial market development efforts focus on energy and civil engineering applications to maximize short-term use of this resource.

In addition, with the experience gained in the United States, it may be possible to accelerate ground rubber market growth in Mexico, the Handbook states.

Looking at another key component of successful scrap tire management programs, the Handbook illustrates how many U.S. states have been able to successfully clean up scrap tire stockpiles, establish programs to halt the formation of future stockpiles, and mitigate the potential risks to human health and the environment posed by tire stockpiles. The Handbook reflects the lessons learned in the process and highlights important considerations for establishing and implementing scrap tire abatement and reuse programs.

It offers several key points for the successful implementation of a scrap tire program calling on stakeholders to first identify and promote markets for scrap tires in or around their communities. The Handbook recommends identifying a specific market before choosing a particular scrap tire application, such as crumb rubber or tire shreds. Hiring a tire expert before making a decision to spend money on pyrolysis, gasification, or thermal induction, can help assure a successful program outcome, the Handbook says.

“While these methods are evolving and may become economically viable in the future, they have not proven economically viable thus far,” the Handbook points out. Additional information, lessons learned, and case-studies from established programs can be found throughout the handbook.

Links for further reading are supplied when available and provide valuable information to local governments or private industry ready to explore the scrap tire market.

To obtain a hardcopy of the publication go to the National Service Center for Environmental Publications website, http://www.epa.gov/nscep. Publication number is EPA530-R-10-010. A Spanish version of the Handbook is also in the works and will be released soon.

© Scrap Tire News, September 2011