Tired of Old Tires?
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
April 18, 2002
As a former member of the Texas Legislature, I am aware of the seemingly impossible process of trying to get 181 members of the House and the Senate to agree on much of anything. The Legislative Sessions are known for their unpredictable nature and hence the old saw, "No one's life, liberty or property is safe while the Legislature is in session". So when I see some law or in this case, the lack of a law, that is really illogical, I understand.
But just because I understand the legislative challenge of reviewing roughly 5,000 bills filed each session and enacting around 500 of them, doesn't mean I accept every result. Such is the case with tires---I am talking primarily about old discarded tires that have so many places in Precinct Four for illegal, but regrettably convenient disposal.
The Texas law that gave birth to our state's tire reclamation program died on December 31, 1997. This program collected $2 for every tire that was sold. This revenue paid for recycling, cleaning up unauthorized tire dumping sites and other clean-up initiatives. Without the law, new tire dumping sites are beginning to reappear.
In the 2001 Legislative Session, Representative Sylvester Turner filed HB 1900, which would have re-enacted the old tire program. Another State Representative, Warren Chisum filed HB 3282, which would have collected a quarter for every tire to use for a tire program. Both of these bills died in committee. Exactly why they both died is to this day, unknown to me. I assume that both were caught up in the end-of-the-session logjam.
What I have been told by informed sources is that the problem which the program administrator, TCEQ, the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (the old TNRCC with a new name) had with the old program was that the shredded tires were being stockpiled and created a dangerous problem. The shredded piles have had in certain instances wire sticking out from the rubber and when it rusts, the oxidation process tends to cause a spontaneous combustion of the tire. This is why the shreds have become relatively unmarketable.
However, there are about 20.3 million tires that are being used constructively after their first life. Some are used with cement kilns for fuel. Others are used for engineering purposes in landfills (for the two foot layer at the bottom of the landfill), rubber mats to be placed under bridge abutments, land reclamation projects (50-50 mix of earth and split, quartered or shredded tires), septic systems (as a gravel substitute) and the like. Nine percent went into a landfill as disposed of material.
The current program is really spotty. If the supply exceeds the demand, the challenge of eliminating the tire problem is difficult. Herein lies the need to create and develop markets.
In the meantime two things hopefully will happen. The tire dealers who in general charge a $2 fee will use the money to have someone properly dispose of the tires. Secondly, some of the brighter minds in our great State will come up with a solution.
Speaking of solutions, from 8:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. on Friday, June 14, 2002, the South Texas Resource Recovery Roundtable will be held at the Heritage Room at St. Philip's College. We will "cover the territory" on resource recovery including tires, in an effort to strengthen the market so it can help clean up our community by creating a demand for what we currently throw away, too often along the roadsides of our beautiful community. The price of the event is $10 per person and will include a box lunch. You may contact my office.