Tire Recycling Foundation: New Era in Tire Recycling

Dynamic new organization brings together every player in the tire recycling value chain, from manufacturers, distributors and retailers to collectors, processors and end users, opening a new era of tire recycling with the common goal that all end-of-life tires enter sustainable and circular markets.

Before tire recycling was tire recycling, a handful of individuals and small companies saw value in discarded scrap tires. They were processors who set up shop to shred, cut, chop, downsize tires to separate the components.  They were equipment manufacturers who adapted and designed the machinery, tools and systems processors needed. They were the visionaries, product creators, fabricators and manufacturers who saw uses and applications for recycling, reusing, repurposing tire materials into something new.

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Without a collective voice, they advocated for a fair playing field of rules and systems for proper management of scrap tires, they pursued ways tire derived materials could be used, they sought markets that could enhance the value of tire materials they produced.  They created an infrastructure of companies that spread across the country responsibly managing scrap tires. They grew into an industry– all the while striving to be recognized as an industry that brings economic, environmental and quality of life values to communities across the country.  Recognition came last month with the formation of the Tire Recycling Foundation.

This new initiative announced during the 2024 Tire Recycling conference, aims to ensure that 100 percent of end-of-life tires find their way into sustainable and circular, sustainable end-use markets.

The new Tire Recycling Foundation (TRF), a joint initiative, led by USTMA and the Tire Industry Association (TIA), also aims to spearhead the development of new processes and technologies and cultivate fresh markets.   “This new foundation is committed to securing funding and allocating grants for research, education, intervention and demonstration projects targeting critical knowledge, research and operational gaps within the tire recycling supply chain across the United States,”  Anne Forristall Luke said in introducing the Foundation.

To accomplish these goals, the new foundation has aggregated an inclusive, multi-stakeholder ecosystem– including tire manufacturers, distributors, retailers, collectors, processors, end users, academia non-governmental organizations and all value chain partners – working with federal and state regulatory agencies to advocate for and develop solutions that push us closer to 100 percent circularity, Forristall Luke said

Tire Recycling Foundation LogoTires remain one of the most recycled products in the United States. But USTMA’s latest Scrap Tire Management Report showed approximately 71 percent of end-of-life tires (ELTs) currently go to reuse markets. “That is well below the 100 percent target – and there is much more we can all do together to reach that goal, “ Forristall Luke said.

“The Foundation will aggregate resources to serve as the premier funding platform for donations, gifts, member fees and grants from diverse sources dedicated to supporting vital research and projects that address critical gaps in technical data, materials science, conversion technologies, and fostering nationwide collaborations across the tire recycling supply chain,” Dick Gust, CEO of the Tire Industry Association said.

The foundation’s chief mission is to drive progress and support circularity of end-of-life tires (ELTs).  “By convening stakeholders, facilitating fundraising for innovation, supporting R&D, identifying best practices, providing education and technical assistance and by incentivizing market development and advancing federal and state regulations that foster sustainable ELT markets, the foundation is poised to play a pivotal role in expanding tire reuse markets, ” Gust said.

Championing the work of the foundation is a newly established Board of Directors – charged with driving its vision and ultimately making critical grant decisions.  In addition to USTMA’s Anne Forristall Luke and TIA’s Dick Gust, the inaugural TRF Board includes John Baldwin,Discount Tire/Tire Rack; Greg Bell, Tire Pros/American Tire Distributors; Thomas Boehme, Genan, Inc.; Oliver Brauen, Michelin; Art Dodge, Ecore International Allie Kelly, The Ray; Maureen Kline, Pirelli North America; Nicholas Nicolaou of US Auto Force; Andy Thompson, Bridgestone; Meri Beth Wojtazek with the Solid Waste Association of North America and Thomas Womble, Liberty Tire Recycling.

The Tire Recycling Foundation Board has set ambitious research initiatives to be supported with fundraising targets of $300,000 in 2025 and $2-3 million in 2026. “With this funding, we can conduct vital research and projects to address knowledge gaps and advance tire circularity,” Dick Gust, CEO of TIA, said. “By championing innovative research and demonstration projects in emerging markets, we are paving the way for a more sustainable future.” Through collaboration with stakeholders across sectors, from regulators to environmental advocates, the Tire Recycling Foundation can drive impactful solutions that benefit the tire recycling value chain and the environment, Gust said.

A key focus area for the Foundation is accelerating the adoption of rubber-modified asphalt (RMA), an emerging end-of-life tire market with performance, economic and environmental advantages.  “Rubber modified asphalt delivers a trifecta of benefits—superior performance, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability,” John Sheerin, USTMA’s Director of End-of-Life Tire Programs, said.

RMA extends pavement lifespan, enhances skid resistance and ride quality, and reduces traffic noise. RMA has demonstrated its cost-effectiveness by minimizing maintenance requirements and total lifecycle costs. Sheerin emphasized RMA’s environmental benefits, “Perhaps most critically, its use reduces greenhouse gas emissions from improved fuel economy while also curtailing tire wear particle pollution.” RMA represents a truly circular, sustainable solution that the Tire Recycling Foundation, along with our new Board of Directors, is committed to advancing industrywide, Sheerin said. Kicking off its work, TRF has already applied for a major grant from the USEPA for Environmental Product Declarations, Gust said.

In addition to applying for grant funding, TRF will also serve as a grant making organization, distributing grant funds beginning in 2026. A Technical Advisory Council, using a scoring system to assess and prioritize grant proposals, will focus on initiatives that enhance tire recycling research, methodologies and infrastructure. “As you can see, we are gearing up for an ambitious new era to expand tire recycling markets across the United States. We laid the groundwork to maximize this organization’s impact, but we cannot do it alone,” Gust said.

Through collaboration with stakeholders across sectors, from regulators to environmental advocates, the Tire Recycling Foundation can drive impactful solutions that benefit the tire recycling value chain and the environment.

© Scrap Tire News, June 2024