California Tire Recycling Markets Gain Ground

A three percentage point hike in California’s waste tire recycling rate has broken a nine-year downward trend, according to the state’s 2018 Waste Tire Market Report

The report, released July 29, focuses on trends in California waste tire recycling and division. It summarizes California waste tire flows to different uses in 2018, current trends as of Spring 2019 and suggests further increases in both recycling and diversion over the next few years.

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In 2018, waste tire diversion and recycling both increased. Under California Statute, the recycling rate measurement is based on three market categories: reuse, crumb/ground rubber and civil engineering. The waste tire diversion rate is determined by the amount of waste tires going to alternative daily cover (ADC) applications and tire-derived fuel (TDF) – both exported TDF and domestic TDF used at in-state cement kilns.

The California waste tire recycling rate reversed a nine-year slide in 2018 by nearly three full percentage points from 33.7 percent to 36.6 percent. The amount of tires recycled increased by 2.3 million PTE’s (22.5 thousand tons) a 14 percent increase. (PTE means Passenger Tire Equivalent, defined by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery [CalRecyle] as 20 pounds).

On the diversion side, after falling for five straight years and hitting an all-time low of 68 percent in 2016, the diversion rate showed increases over two consecutive years, reaching 82.3 percent in 2018, the report said.

Managing Tire Flow

The estimated 51.1 million PTEs of California-generated waste tires managed in 2018 marked a five percent increase over 2017 and logged the fourth straight annual increase.

California’s waste tires flowed to nine different market segments led by burgeoning tire derived fuel exports that increased 19 percent to 13.5 million PTEs in 2018.

TDF exports were mainly to Japan, Korea and India where demand for size-reduced TDF remains steady with India showing a significant appetite for both size-reduced and baled TDF.

Also, Vietnam, which halted imports of baled tires in early 2018, is expected to re-start accepting baled tires soon, the report said.

Market Trends

The overall increase in California’s tire recycling rate in 2018 was largely influenced by the strong increase in crumb / ground rubber production which increased 29 percent and accounted for 8.8 million PTEs in 2018 and is on track to grow steadily in the next few years, the report said.

“California now has a significant amount of under-utilized crumb rubber production capacity,” the report authors said. “In addition, strong drivers, including increased infrastructure and transportation funding are expected to boost demand for crumb rubber in both the paving and molded products segments,” they said.

Despite these gains, California’s crumb rubber infill market has declined over the last several ears, according to the report. Once at 100 percent, the use of crumb rubber infill has dropped to an estimated 60-80 percent usage rate and is likely to stay at those levels through 2019 as the industry awaits release of two studies, one being conducted by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and another by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Another factor impacting a decline in the state’s crumb rubber infill market is the growing trend to reuse crumb rubber infill mixtures being recovered from existing synthetic turf athletic fields, in California and nationally, that have reached the end of their useful life and are being replaced.

On the upside, the report estimates that about 90-110 new synthetic turf fields were installed in California in 2018 and an additional 25-35 replacement fields were installed. The total demand for crumb rubber infill in these projects in 2018 was between 15-25 million pounds.

“Given these trends, the turf infill market appears likely to remain an important market for California crumb rubber in the short-term, but whether and when the trend of declining use may turn around is uncertain,” the report said.

The report finds the use of tire derived aggregate (TDA) in civil engineering on track to grow in 2019, after falling by 20 percent in 2018 to 0.5 million PTEs. Based on projections for seven CalRecycle-funded projects and an additional estimate from one landfill, TDA could increase three-fold to about 1.6 million PTEs in 2019. This would be the highest amount for civil engineering projects since 2010, the report said.

The reuse market which incudes both retreading and used tires, also showed a slight uptick, accounting for 90.6 thousand tons. About 47.9 thousand tons went to the retreading market and 42.6 thousand tons went to the used tire market, a 3 percent increase from 2017, the report said.

Over the last two years, disposal of California-generated waste tires has been declining to 9.1 million PTEs in 2018, a 22 percent decline from 2017. According to the report, some landfills don’t accept tires, while others have increased tire disposal rates. In addition, disposal amounts are being influenced by demand and pricing in the high volume market for size reduced and baled TDF as well as by trends in other recycling and diversion markets.

With export markets expected to remain strong and even grow further along with potential increase in crumb rubber and civil engineering volumes, 2018 disposal could decline further, while 2019 is on track for a 30 percent reduction in waste tire disposal, report authors said.

Tire shreds are used as alternative daily cover at some landfills to cover disposed waste at the end of each day. In 2018 three landfills in central and northern California reported combined use of 1.8 million PTEs as ADC, slightly less than in 2017 when four landfills reported tire ADC use. This amount is to decline as one of the landfills is scheduled to close in 2019.

The net impact of these trends could potentially boost diversion and recycling rates in 2019 and over the next few years, the report concluded.

© Scrap Tire News, September 2019