Crumb Rubber Tops Kentucky’s 2020 Tire Recycling Market

Despite the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Kentucky’s recycling rate maintained 2019 levels, while its major tire recycling markets increased slightly, according to the state’s latest Waste Tire Report.

The statewide recycling rate for tires was 76.3 percent for 2020 compared to 76.6 percent for 2019, placing Kentucky slightly above the 75.8 percent U.S. national average for 2019, reported by the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association.

Ad banner for SSI Shredding Systems

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) supports progress in Kentucky’s scrap tire management program using monies from the Waste Tire Trust Fund (WTTF) to fund market-based grants, end-user incentives and cleanup and enforcement initiatives.

The WTTF is funded by the $2.00 per tire charged on the sale of new tires in the state. The fee was raised from $1.00 to $2.00 by the Kentucky General Assembly in 2018 but the additional funding may not all go to the waste tire program the report said.

For the first time, ground rubber became Kentucky’s largest market in 2020 at 36.1 percent, significantly above the national average of 24.4 percent, for a range of applications including landscape mulch, playground cushioning, and synthetic turf infill.

Production of ground rubber and mulch from Kentucky tires increased from an essentially nonexistent product in 1998 to 2.16 million PTEs in 2020.

Ground tire rubber used in rubber modified asphalt pavements continued to emerge as an important market in the state in 2020. The EEC promotes this type of asphalt as an additional option to increase scrap tire recycling and began offering rubber modified asphalt ( RMA) grants in 2016.

Since then, the WTTF has funded 27 different road projects reimbursing $2,229,029 to counties for RMA paving. In 2020, $482,749 reimbursed six grant projects, using approximately 3,100 tires. This grant is expected to continue in 2021, and could possibly be expanded to include additional pavement processes, the report said.

a playground in Kentucky with a crumb rubber play surfaceAll RMA projects in the state underwent testing in 2020 and met existing Kentucky Transportation Cabinet standard specifications. These tests, which compared RMA surfaces to conventional asphalt surfaces of similar area, included compaction density, asphalt content, voids, rutting, and performance grade.

Tire-derived-fuel (TDF) has been and continues today as one of the largest scrap tire markets in Kentucky. Total TDF usage in Kentucky rebounded in 2020 and remained strong compared to many other regions of the country.

In 2020, TDF users in Kentucky consumed about 3.7 million PTEs.

Among the drivers, East Kentucky Power Cooperative increased its consumption as a result of improved operating and economic conditions in 2020, and is expected to remain strong in 2021. In addition, Cemex has continued to use TDF steadily.

A potential problem for tire processors is the maturation of national TDF markets, reflecting a general downturn in U.S. manufacturing, and reduction in coal usage. Unlike many states, Kentucky’s TDF market remains robust and has ongoing potential to continue as a major use of waste tires for the Commonwealth. However, use of all solid fuels, including coal and TDF, is expected to decline. Continuing efforts to further diversify markets are critical to maintaining a high rate of tire recycling in Kentucky, the report said.

During 2020, the EEC provided monies directly to counties for the removal of waste tires, and for remediation of tire dump sites. The EEC originally scheduled WTCEs in the spring of 2020, however, the COVID pandemic caused EEC to postpone most of the spring events until the fall. After developing a specialized COVID safety protocol, all 2020 events were completed on a revised schedule in late summer and fall. These events garnered a total of 798,480 PTEs at an overall cost of $1,394,545.32.

In addition to its structured grants and programs, the EEC also funds the cleanup of illegal tire dump sites in specific cases where a responsible party is either unknown or incapable of paying for cleanup.

In 2020, the EEC spent $16,558.17 to clean up 6,640 PTEs collected from a tire dump site and provided direct grants to counties totaling $457,010 that were used to recycle or dispose of 266,912 PTEs.

Kentuckians generated 53,900 tons (5.39 million PTEs) of waste tires in calendar year 2020. The state and counties handled 14.9 percent of the PTEs generated. The private sector handled the remaining 85.1 percent of waste tires, according to the report.

While Kentucky has developed diverse markets for TDF and ground rubber products, representing approximately 58 percent of Kentucky’s waste tire generation, developing civil engineering markets for shredded tires in highway construction, foundation backfill and similar projects could further enhance the diversity of Kentucky’s markets, the report said.

In addition, the report identifies Kentucky’s growing automotive manufacturing sector as a potential opportunity for using tire derived materials in the production of automotive parts.

© Scrap Tire News, April 2021