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Tire roundup leaves its mark

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/18/2022 9:09:53 PM
Modified: 4/18/2022 9:08:34 PM

CLAREMONT — Three years ago, the Claremont Transfer Station held its first free tire recycling event.

Officials had noticed tires littered around the city, and the road crew picked up “quite a few on the side of the road,” said Ted Wadleigh, the city’s assistant director of public works.

That first year, the city collected about 4,000 tires in two days.

The event became an annual tradition. And while the number of tires collected has declined each year, so has the tire pollution problem around the city.

“We have noticed a decline in brooks and on the sides of the road. It’s a great idea,” Wadleigh said.

This Saturday, Claremont once more will be collecting passenger and light truck tires at no charge between 8:00 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.

But this year, as the tire recycling market has been disrupted, the city’s cost for disposing of the tires have increased significantly.

“It is expensive to get rid of them,” Wadleigh said, “but it’s also expensive to pick them up on the side of the road.”

Rounding up used tires is not just important for aesthetic reasons.

Mosquitoes thrive in the stagnant water that collects inside a discarded tire, potentially spreading encephalitis and other diseases.

Tire fires can also spark in a pile, and they are so difficult to put out that they can burn for weeks, releasing a heavy black smoke all the while.

Tires are also laden with toxic chemicals which can leach into ground and surface water as they sit on the landscape, harming wildlife and the environment in even miniscule quantities.

Tire recycling is not without controversy. Some of the end uses of scrap tires have raised concerns even as they offer the toxin-laden rubber a second use outside a landfill.

Tires are a significant stream of solid waste. According to the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, 37% of recycled tires became “tire-derived fuel” in 2019. That often means blending scrap tires, which are largely made of petroleum, into the fuel mix at a cement kiln. Some environmentalists criticize this practice because it may release the toxic chemicals in tires into the air.

Another 25% became ground rubber. For example, tires are often blended into asphalt, or more controversially given their toxic ingredients, shredded and used to cover playgrounds instead of wood chips.

Another 14% was still landfilled, despite a push by the Environmental Protection Agency to keep them out of landfills because hollow tires take up precious space. In a landfill, tires also trap gases such as methane and then balloon to the surface with such force that they can tear through landfill liners.

The EPA led a Scrap Tire Workgroup to promote recycling in 2003. Since then, the number of massive tire piles has dropped across the country as businesses found secondary uses.

But in recent months, the recycling market has hit road bumps.

“Tire prices for drop off are really going up,” said Ham Gillett, the outreach coordinator at Greater Upper Valley Solid Waste Management District. And with some regularity he hears reports that tires have been dumped along the side of the road.

Other than the annual free collection event, Claremont charges $6 for a small tire and $15 for a tire between 17 and 24 inches. Then, the City of Claremont pays Bob’s Tire Co., a recycling vendor, to haul the scrap tires to their facility, process them and find a market for them.

The city used to pay Bob’s Tire Co. $1.50 per tire, but this year the price rose to $2.50.

The company has served its clients across New England and New York throughout the pandemic, but it found it more difficult to find enough buyers to keep up with its supply.

“It depends on the demands of market,” said Josey Swire, who’s in administration at Bob’s Tire Co. “Right now, we haven’t had such a demand. We just keep it on yard. We have trailers that we store it in.”

Bob’s Tire extracts metal from the tires and shreds them into two-inch pieces. From there, the material has a wide range of uses, from tire-derived fuel to outdoor running tracks or pens for horses.

Other recycling vendors have stopped collecting tires all together.

In early January, the Hartford Transfer Station announced that it would not accept any type of tires because of its vendor’s ongoing labor shortages.

While the recycling market is less predictable than it was before the pandemic, several local facilities are still accepting scrap tires.

Evergreen Recycling, in Wilder, is accepting tires with no rims and no dirt at $3 each or $190 a ton.

Judy Belyea, who owns Evergreen, said that she has been getting lots of calls because people are struggling to find a place to dispose of their tires. BDS Waste, Evergreen’s Maine-based tire vendor, did not respond to a request for comment in time for print.

And the Lebanon landfill is also accepting passenger tires at $7.50 apiece or $175 a ton for farm or construction tires, according to its website.

The Greater Upper Valley Solid Waste Management District, which works with Evergreen, will be holding three tire collections for district towns in the fall. So far, Gillett says it will likely charge about $4 a tire.

In West Fairlee, it will hold a collection on Sep. 17; in Thetford, on Sep. 24; and in Strafford, on Oct. 1. ‘

While Claremont will only accept tires up to 20 inches, it will accept tires with or without rims.

Claire Potter is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at cpotter@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.


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