On Tuesday, May 10, 16 organizations, including ISRI, submitted a joint letter to the Biden administration to encourage the use of recycled tire technologies in national infrastructure projects. Headed by the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA), the letter was addressed to Mitch Landrieu, Biden administration senior advisor and infrastructure coordinator.
“Our organizations work to keep end-of-life tires out of landfills by promoting strong, societally beneficial markets for scrap tires,” the letter notes. “And we support efforts to rebuild and improve America’s roadways using technologies that will increase driver safety and ensure reductions in environmental impacts.”
“ISRI supports using recycled commodities as part of the infrastructure spending in this country across all commodities,” says Joe Pickard, ISRI’s chief economist and director of commodities. “This will help promote the use of technology to recycle end-of-life tires and create new raw materials for various infrastructure projects.”
Tires are one of the most recycled and reclaimed products in the U.S. Since 1990, 94% of the tires stockpiled in the U.S. have been recovered for new uses. According to USTMA’s 2018 sustainability report, the recycled tire markets need to grow to accommodate growth in new tire shipments.
To that end, the stakeholders described two materials suited to meet the goals of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Biden administration: rubber-modified asphalt (RMA) and tire-derived aggregate (TDA). Incorporating these technologies, the letter notes, would help propel circular sustainable markets for recycled tires.
A mixture of asphalt with ground rubber from end-of-life tires, RMA has several economic, environmental, and performance benefits in building better, longer lasting roads and highways. According to the letter, using RMA results in a 32% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and lower energy consumption over the lifetime of a pavement compared to traditional asphalt. Its road performance benefits include longer service life, increased skid resistance, significant noise reduction, and better ride quality.
TDA is a product made from recycled tires that is a cost-effective infill material for sustainable infrastructure including roadside embankments, retaining walls, and stormwater infiltration galleries. Compared to traditional mined minerals like gravel, TDA allows for cost savings since the lightweight recycled material costs less to transport.
TDA also has a larger void space than gravel, offering improved drainage and the potential to capture greater water volume with a smaller gallery footprint in stormwater infiltration galleries. The letter notes several studies have found that TDA captures potentially harmful pollutants from roadway runoff, including heavy metals, before they reach groundwater.
The stakeholders outlined several provisions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law where these technologies could thrive. The law delivers more than $50 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve the nation’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. The letter recommends TDA as a proven technology that should be considered for water infiltration galleries.
Section 11520 of the law notes that the EPA and Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences will study stormwater runoff from highways and pedestrian facilities and provide recommendations for potential stormwater management. The stakeholders encourage the study to include further explorations of RMA’s effectiveness in reducing stormwater running from road surfaces.
“Our nation is making once-in-a-generation investments in our country’s infrastructure and we want to be active participants in ensuring the success of these efforts,” says Anne Forristall Luke, USTMA president and CEO. “As a coalition, we view this as a critical opportunity to identify mutually beneficial uses of scrap tire materials that have the potential to meet a variety of mutual societal and policy goals.”
Materials from recycled tires could not only play a vital role in meeting the goals of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law but also “represent useful tools for Biden Administration priorities such as waste reduction, recycling, and the transition to a circular economy,” the letter notes.
In addition to ISRI and USTMA, the letter is supported and signed by: American Bus Association, Asphalt Plus, CM Shredders, Crumb Rubber Manufacturers, EcoGreen Equipment, First State Tire Recycling, International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers, Inc., Liberty Tire Recycling, Missouri Center for Transportation Innovation, The Ray, TDA Manufacturing, Tiger Eye Engineering, Tire Industry Association and United Motorcoach Association.
“ISRI strongly supports building coalitions across industry associations, government agencies, and other stakeholders to promote the use of recycled commodities in infrastructure projects,” Pickard says.