Please note: This summary is provided to help you understand the regulations. Consult the references provided for links to the full text of the regulations.
This section covers environmental regulatory aspects of waste (scrap) tires. The focus is on state solid waste regulations and recycling incentive programs.
Who is covered by the regulations?
Although the U.S. EPA actively encourages the recycling of used tires, there are no federal rules that specifically pertain to generators of used tires. In part, this is due to the fact that used tires are not normally considered to be a "hazardous waste", but rather just a "solid waste," regulated under less stringent rules. As with other non-hazardous solid wastes, the responsibility for regulating waste tires falls to the state environmental agencies. Therefore, businesses that generate waste tires, such as truck maintenance facilities, must follow the rules enacted by their particular states. All states, except for Alaska, have specific management and disposal rules that apply to generators of waste tires.
What is the purpose of the regulations?
The purpose of most state waste tire regulations is to avoid improper storage and disposal of scrap tires while simultaneously encouraging recycling. Piles of waste tires provide convenient habitats for rodents. They also hold water and become excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry diseases (such as West Nile virus and other threats to public health). Further, improperly stored tires present a fire hazard. They readily burn (tires produce the same amount of energy as oil and 25% more energy than coal) and their characteristic shapes trap oxygen that will constantly feed the flames, which emit noxious, air polluting smoke. When tires are openly burned, oils and soot can run off and contaminate both surface and ground water. Large tire piles have been known to continue burning and polluting the local air, for as long as several years.
On the other hand, when tires are recycled through energy recovery or as a product or product ingredient precious solid waste landfill capacity is saved and the use of fossil fuels is reduced.
Each state makes its own waste tire laws and regulations. Within their rules, many states have identified waste tires as a "special waste" and in some cases have entirely banned waste tires from landfills. The state laws typically cover, at a minimum, used tire storage, collection, processing, and use. States also establish programs to clean up old scrap tire stockpiles, and the funding needed to accomplish that goal. Further, the majority of state legislatures have recognized that creating viable markets for scrap tires can be a very productive component of a state's environmental and recycling policies.
The following table provides links to state regulatory, policy or guidance information on their websites concerning waste tires. If you know of more applicable information for your state, please email us and we will update our information database.
Waste tires should be stored prior to disposal or recycling in a manner that minimizes the potential for pest infestation and fires. Many states have specific rules for waste tire storage that relate to siting of tire storage areas, the maximum number of waste tires stored or size of piles, pest minimization, fire prevention, and emergency vehicle access. Use the links above to find the specific rules in your state.
Recycling of waste tires is a much more environmentally preferred option than disposal and it has become a mainstream practice thanks to both disposal restrictions and recycling incentives. The states have played a major role in tackling this problem by regulating the hauling, processing, and storage of scrap tires; and by working with industry to recycle and beneficially use scrap tires, through developing markets for the collected scrap tires.
In the 1990's, waste tire energy recovery or Tire-Derived-Fuel (TDF) was a growing business. In 1991 only 11% of all waste tires generated were used as fuel. By 2003, the percentage had grown to 45%. However, during the 2000's a new shift occurred where civil engineering and ground rubber used in highways and other applications became competitive with the energy recovery option. In part, this is due to beneficial use regulations and policies enacted by states that encourage new approaches to waste management. Stiffer air emissions rules on facilities burning TDF may also have played a role.
Some of the non-energy products of waste tires, include:
- Road building material, chiefly as an additive or supplement to asphalt;
- Engineering applications such as lightweight fill to support road base material and as fill behind retaining walls; as drainage material in landfills and leachate systems in septic system design.
- Paving material to occupy the space between and around railroad tracks;
- As rubber matting for playground surfaces and in cow and horse barns;
- As surfacing for equestrian arenas.
Beneficial Use State Program Information - A state resource locator developed and maintained by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences.
Environmental Center for Auto Recyclers - This compliance assistance center provides state regulatory and pollution prevention information on waste tires and other materials.
Solid Waste State Resource Locator - The Solid Waste Resource Locator contains links to regulatory agencies and rules covering solid waste topics. It was developed and is maintained by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences.
State Scrap Tire Programs A Quick Reference Guide: 1999 Update - This report summarizes each state's scrap tire management legislation and programs in a matrix for each state program. It is intended to provide state regulators, as well as members of industry, with a quick reference on state scrap tire programs across the country.