Solid Waste & Recycling


What Goes Around Comes Around

To date, most Canadian provinces have developed successful used-tire management programs. Increasingly, the tires handled through these programs are not merely prepared for incineration, but are actua...

To date, most Canadian provinces have developed successful used-tire management programs. Increasingly, the tires handled through these programs are not merely prepared for incineration, but are actually recycled. Currently, only Ontario and Newfoundland do not have used-tire management programs. Ontario had a program in the early 1990s but it ended amid allegations that special “tire tax” funds were directed toward other government priorities.

Most used-tire management programs in Canada are based on provincial regulatory requirements. In most cases, provinces have established a multi-stakeholder board, association or council (that reports to the environment minister) to implement the programs. In British Columbia, however, the government has contracted this function to the private sector. Prince Edward Island is the only province where the government itself directly implements the program.


Although the involvement of all the relevant industry sectors in policy planning and program implementation yields benefits, it appears that a cornerstone of success is the establishment of dedicated, non-voluntary revenue generating mechanisms (i.e., levies) and systems that ensure the revenue is used to support tire recycling and reutilization. Seven of the eight provinces with used-tire management programs raise money for their initiatives through a levy on the purchase of new tires. Quebec anticipates adoption of a similar approach this year. Recyc-Quebec has used funds from both the soft drink container deposit-refund system and general government revenues to support used-tire reutilization. This approach has been criticized for cross-subsidization and is being reformed. (See article, page 26.)

Most levies range between two and four dollars per tire, regardless of tire size. However, three provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and, more recently, Saskatchewan) have moved to graduated systems in which levies relate to tire size. Saskatchewan’s system recognizes four levels of levy: passenger vehicle, medium/heavy truck, agricultural vehicle or off-road vehicle. In contrast, the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia levies relate to just two sizes of rim category.

Successful levy systems require the registration of tire retailers and the recording of their sales. Heavy penalties dissuade free riders. In Alberta, for example, the sale of a tire by an unregistered vendor can trigger a $50,000 fine. Neighboring Saskatchewan tried a voluntary levy approach for two years (ending in November 1998) but the result was inequity in the retail tire market as not all tire retailers collected the levy. Worse, many of those that did failed to pass it on to the Saskatchewan Scrap Tire Corporation (SSTC). In fact, the SSTC received levy revenue from only about half of the tires sold in the province.

Tire levy revenues are used to offset the costs of used-tire collection, transportation and processing, cleanup of tire stockpiles, and the recovery (mining) of used tires from landfills. In Western Canada and Quebec, revenues are typically used to offset transportation and reutilization costs incurred by entrepreneurs. Anyone can participate in used-tire reutilization activities that qualify for financial support. In New Brunswick and Nova Scotia smaller numbers of tires are available and those provinces have each worked with the private sector to establish scrap tire processing facilities to manage all their scrap tires under provincial contracts.


The methods via which provinces calculate their used tire recovery rates vary, but it’s clear that the programs are achieving rates that commonly exceed 80 per cent of tire “PTE” sold annually. (PTE or “passenger tire equivalent” is a more-or-less standard industry measure developed because of the variety of tire applications. Instead of counting the actual number of tires, the PTE converts tires on the basis of their weight.) Currently, it’s estimated that approximately 26 million PTEs are sold each year in Canada and an equivalent number generated as used tires. (See Table.) This excludes the very large off-road vehicle tires used by mining vehicles that, although small in number, are significant in terms of PTE. In 1998, New Brunswick had the highest recovery rate–130 per cent–of PTEs sold. This reflects the recovery of tires from stockpiles as well as those discarded during the year.

Unfortunately, much of the progress of the past few years has bypassed Ontario. A longtime leader in recycling, Ontario’s used-tire recovery rate is estimated by industry to be only in the range of 25 percent PTEs–by far the lowest in the country. This is especially disappointing in light of the fact that Ontario generates the greatest number of used tires each year. All eyes are on Ontario to see whether (and how) it, too, will solve a problem that is being addressed by the other provinces.

Doug Hickman, M.Sc, is president of PHA Consulting Associates in Canning, Nova Scotia. The information for this article has been gathered from used tire management agencies across the country and the author would like to thank all those who have shared data and perspectives.

Used Tire Management in Canada

British Columbia Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario Quebec New Brunswick Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island Newfoundland
Number of
Tires (PTE) 3.6 million/yr 2.5 million/yr 1 million/yr 1 million/yr 10 million/yr 6 million/yr 0.7 million/yr 0.9 million/yr 0.1 million/yr 0.5 million/yr
Used Tire
Management Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Program Private Multi- Multi- Multi- N/A Multi- Multi- Multi- Departmrnt of N/A
Admin. contractor stakeholder stakeholder stakeholder stakeholder stakeholder stakeholder the
Structure association board board council board board Environment
Financing $3 per $4 per $3.50 – $35 $3 per None Government $3 – $9 $3- $9 $2 per None
Mechanism new tire new tire per new tire new tire funds per new tire per new tire new tire
Recovery 90% 80% Not known 85% 25% 83% 130% 82% 95% 45%
Recycling 72% 80% Not known 75% 25% 42% 130% 82% Varies 45%
Use As 18% 0% Not known 12% No

t known

41% 0% 0% Varies 0%

Reinventing the Wheel

In 1839, a Connecticut Yankee named Charles Goodyear invented rubber “vulcanization” (after the Roman fire god) while in debtor’s prison. The process–which combines sulphur with raw rubber and heat–makes for durable tires but also poses vexing challenges to would-be recyclers. Consequently, scrap tires have traditionally been landfilled, stockpiled, or incinerated (e.g., in cement kilns).

Today, the percentage of tires used as fuel is in decline. In Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, all recovered tires are recycled. In other provinces, tires may be used for fuel. (The proportion in Saskatchewan and Ontario is unknown.) Of the provinces with used tire management programs, Quebec reutilizes tires as fuel the most. (As in British Columbia, the largest consumer of tire-derived-fuel or “TDF” is the cement industry.) In most provinces, TDF is not preferred, as it doesn’t afford the job creation and other economic benefits of recycling.

Tire piles have been eliminated in B.C., Alberta and Manitoba, and will disappear in the Maritime provinces and Saskatchewan within about two years. (In some provinces, municipalities are paid for tires recovered from their waste disposal sites.)

Of the eight provinces with used tire management programs, only Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island do not have large-scale rubber product manufacturers that utilize scrap tires. Ontario also has significant manufacturing capacity for utilizing scrap tires, although this is small in comparison to the number of tires available. In Newfoundland, the Hibernia oil field is creating a market demand for products made from used tires.

A popular low-cost recycling option shreds and chips the tires for civil engineering and geotechnical applications. One bridge project in Minnesota used 300,000 tires in place of rock and natural fill. Some entrepreneurs make cattle feeders, loading dock and wharf bumpers, and electric motor mounts. Tens of thousands of cow mattresses are now manufactured from rubber chips.

The highest value-added products are generally associated with crumb and molding processes. Patio blocks, bricks, and parking lot bumpers can be made from crumb rubber, as well as covers for blasting sites, oilrig walkways, arena ice surfaces, and children’s playgrounds. Rubberized asphalt is a potentially huge application. Michelin plans to include 5 per cent crumb rubber in some tires (a significant increase above the one per cent typical maximum).

Industry plans to introduce used off-road tires into recovery systems. Though small in number, these massive tires contain large quantities of rubber. Research continues on de-vulcanization which, if achievable, could result in the greatly increased recycling of tires back into tires.

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