What happens when your tires come full circle?
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Paper. Plastic. Glass. Rubber?
No one likes fees. We automatically associate “fee” with something excessive, unfair, and distasteful. In our minds, they’re unnecessary and inconvenient. But that’s predominantly because we often don’t understand what the fees are for, how the money is utilized, and how it relates to our daily lives.
If you’ve ever looked at your receipt after purchasing replacements for one, or several tires, you may have noticed the line item labeled “Tire Recycling Fee”. The fee remains unclear to many customers buying new tires. Also known as tire disposal fees, waste tire recycling development fees, or scrap tire disposal taxes (or any combination thereof), this fee is not only necessary, but beneficial.
You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers! What’s the difference between state mandated fees as opposed to tire installer fees? What does this money pay for? Where do the old tires go? Tire purchases can be costly, so it’s important to ask these questions in order to determine exactly what you’re paying for and avoid unexplained or hidden fees. Here’s the truth on tire taxes.
What is the dreaded “Tire Tax”?
You’re probably wondering: why am I required to pay extra just to throw your old tires away, on top of paying for new ones?
A tire recycling fee, or “tire tax”, is a fee paid either:
a) on each new tire sold and/or
b) for disposing of your old tires after a new pair (or set) is installed.
Sometimes the tire recycling fee is an environment fee or combination of the two. Regardless of what it’s called, it serves the same purpose: to fund the disposal of old tires. Each state has their own laws on tire recycling and fees that must be applied on new tire purchases.
How are tires recycled?
Not all tires become sad old swings once they’ve been retired from their useful life on the road. As you might have suspected, tires cannot be disposed of like other materials. They are nonbiodegradable (they do not break down and degrade over time), cannot be compacted (like plastic and metal), and remain in the same shape. Because of their sheer size and impenetrable rubber compound, tires are among the most problematic sources of waste we face today.
On the road, tires don’t last forever – the tread eventually wears down or they sustain irreparable damage. But in the environment, tires can last forever. Worn-out tires used to be dumped in landfills to sit for perpetuity. In recent years, 44 states have restricted tire disposal at landfills.
Where do recycled tires go, if not the landfill?
Fortunately, new technology makes it possible for the tires to be broken down and specific components re-used. Processes such as pyrolysis—heat is applied to rubber to soften it and turn it into fuel—and devulcanization (no, this isn’t a Star Trek reference)—reclaimed rubber—make it possible to reuse the rubber for other purposes. Tire material is extremely useful and can be repurposed numerous ways, which is why many states have implemented tire recycle programs in recent years.
Since the implementation of scrap tire legislation, state-funded tire recycling programs have become instrumental in diverting scrap tires from stockpiles and landfills. These programs give tires a new home, just in slightly different forms.
Some larger sized tires are used as stone aggregate substitutes in civil engineering projects. Commonly referred to as TDF, tire-derived fuel is produced from the shredded form of tires and is used as a source of fuel in power plants and mills.
The landscaping industry has greatly benefitted from the development of rubber mulch, which eliminates the need for annual mulching, promotes water retention in soil, and reduces mold, mildew, and fungus.
Not to mention, the next time you walk across a spongey playground or athletic turf field, you can clearly see the result of hundreds of recycled tires underfoot!
Many states use funds collected from tire recycling fees to develop these recycling methods and divert these tires from an otherwise fateful eternity buried under piles of rubbish. The separate fee charged by your tire installer covers cost for the private services that pick up old tires and dispose of them according to the individual state regulations.
How much is the typical tire recycling fee?
Extra fees are an unfavorable element in any transaction, but the good news is, this disposal fee rarely exceeds $2.00 per each new vehicle tire purchased in any given state. Some states, such as Indiana and Kansas, impose fees as low as 25 cents per tire. Oklahoma might have the most specific and expensive tire fee requirements compared to other states. Find out how much your state charges for new tire fees here.
While the extra dollars may seem unnecessary, this small fee has the amazing capacity to divert millions of pounds of scrap tire material from landfills each year! Ultimately, these fees are consistently implemented to combat the 111 million scrap tires currently lying in stockpiles across the U.S., with an additional 3.9 million tons generated each year.
Fast-Track Tire Facts
In 2015, the breakdown of recycled material from tires was as follows: 48.6% was diverted as TDF, 25.8% was processed as ground rubber, 11.4 % was land disposed, 7% was used in civil engineering projects and 7.1% was used for miscellaneous purposes.
37 states have a mandated tire fee, which serves as the most common funding mechanism. Nationally, the continued implementation of legislation and regulation by states will spur the cleanup of remaining stockpiles across the country. The funding generated from tire disposal fees will guarantee effective monitoring, tracking, certification and enforcement protocols, which will likely boost scrap tire waste prevention significantly in the years to come.
After it’s all said and done, installing a tire-swing is always a viable (and fun) option for your own waste prevention efforts!
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