Solid Waste & Recycling

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Where The Rubber Hits The Road

Every year Canadians use and discard more than 28 million tires. From a secondary resource perspective, this represents a significant amount of material -- about 210,000 tonnes of rubber, 40,000 tonne...


Every year Canadians use and discard more than 28 million tires. From a secondary resource perspective, this represents a significant amount of material — about 210,000 tonnes of rubber, 40,000 tonnes of steel and 15,000 tonnes of fabric. The challenge in Canada, as in other countries, is to turn what has been typically thought of as a waste problem into a resource and opportunity. This means finding effective ways to recycle old tires into value-added end uses.

In the past, end uses for scrap tire material were limited and supply far exceeded demand. Consequently, tires accumulated into stockpiles — sometimes quite enormous ones. In Hagersville, Ontario in 1990 more than 14 million tires burned in the largest tire fire in the world. (See Final Analysis in the February/ March 2001 edition and editorial in the December/January 2000 edition.)

The fire drew attention to the danger of storing tires and many provinces took action. Canada is now a leader in the field of scrap tire management programs.

Eight provinces operate stewardship programs for scrap tires. (See map.) Ironically, though, Ontario (along with Newfoundland) operates no mandated recycling program for scrap tires at all. The provinces that have programs use backdrop regulations to level the playing field. Consumers are charged a pre-disposal or recycling levy on the sale of new tires for licensed highway vehicles. These levies range from $2 to $4 per tire for car or light truck tires. Higher fees are charged for large truck tires in some provinces.

Retailers collect the levies from consumers and remit the funds to a provincial scrap tire management agency. In most cases the funds collected are used independently and are kept separate from the provincial treasury. Stakeholders that represent industry, the public, and municipal and provincial government govern management agencies or stewardship boards. (See Table 1.) This makes them accountable to the public and each stakeholder group.

“Provinces such as Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick and PEI report no significant stockpiles.”

The agencies or boards provide financial incentives to processors to produce value-added materials starting with shred and crumb, but ultimately including manufactured products. Incentives may also be available for collection and transportation of the scrap tires to the processor, for whole- and cut-tire applications, and for tire-derived fuel (in four provinces only). In most cases incentives are provided based on proof of sale of the material or product to a third party. Some provinces also provide grants for marketing, development of new value-added manufactured products, public education and demonstration projects. (See Table 2.)

Markets have grown significantly; examples of end uses include: carpet underlay, rubber mats, paving stones, automotive parts, rubberized asphalt, loose crumb in playgrounds, animal mattresses, and so on. (See sidebar.)

Tire stockpiles exist in parts of the country but these are being depleted through incentive credits and other efforts. Most provinces have either completely cleaned up their stockpiles or are close to doing so. Provinces such as Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick and PEI report no significant existing stockpiles; Nova Scotia and BC expect to eliminate theirs in the next few years.

“Ontario and Newfoundland don’t operate mandated tire recycling programs.”

On average, in 1999-2000 Canada recycled nearly 62 per cent of the scrap tires generated (by weight), including re-use and recycling. Tires used for fuel domestically account for another seven per cent, and an additional 24 per cent were exported (for tire derived fuel and reuse applications) — for a total diversion rate of 93 per cent.

Therefore about 69 per cent of all scrap tires in Canada have domestic markets. Comparatively, Japan reports 90 per cent domestic markets for their scrap tires (including incineration), and Europe and the US report markets for about 65 per cent of their scrap tires. (Most exported tires are used for tire-derived fuel markets.)

Ontario and Newfoundland need to get with the program and take the stewardship of scrap tires seriously. The rest of Canada has shown that stewardship programs can be effective and that solutions exist.

Clarissa Morawski is principal of CM Consulting, based in Toronto, Ontario and Daniel Smith is president of Tire Solutions International, based in Calgary, Alberta.


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