The Spotlight on Tire and Rubber: Recycling’s Role in Sustainable Development session March 23 at ISRI2022 in Las Vegas delved into how tire and rubber recycling is expected to play a vital role in improving America’s infrastructure and sustainability while facing more state and local regulatory challenges. Moderator Kyle Eastman of Liberty Tire Recycling and panelists John Sheerin of the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA), and Danielle Waterfield, ISRI’s chief policy officer, discussed innovative technologies, market challenges, and opportunities facing the sector.
Sheerin, USTMA’s director of end-of-life-tire programs, says the relationship between his members and recyclers has stayed strong during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are pretty well integrated,” he explains. In his opening remarks, Sheerin stated mulch is a growth market for recycled tire rubber; rubber-modified asphalt and the use of tires as fuel require more data.
The USTMA 2021 U.S. Scrap Tire Management Report will have more takeaways when it is released later this year, he says. Meanwhile, the association is looking for opportunities to incorporate recycled rubber into road construction, particularly that funded by the bipartisan infrastructure law President Joe Biden signed in November 2021. “If a state doesn’t have a specification for rubber-modified asphalt, it’s very difficult to use,” Sheerin says.
Waterfield reviewed a multitude of tire- and rubber-related pieces of legislation making their way through state government. Nearly 140 bills are tracked at ISRI.org. Connecticut House Bill 5139, an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program for tires, is one that USTMA opposes. ISRI’s position on product stewardship can be found here.
“EPR in most states is focused on paper and packaging this year,” Waterfield says. “But if paper and packaging EPR bills programs … start actually bringing in money, [legislatures] might turn around and start focusing on tires.” ISRI is watching several states where lawmakers are trying to keep used carpet out of landfills, to learn how that may impact the industry, and if synthetic turf could come into play in EPR programs.
Maryland continues to pursue a chain-of-custody bill for synthetic turf, and ISRI has lobbied on behalf of the industry. Twenty-four bills across the states bar homeowners’ associations from banning the use of synthetic turf. “When we band together, we can do good!” Waterfield says.
Environment, social, and governance (ESG) considerations ran through several sessions at ISRI2022, and the tire-rubber recycling sector is not exempt. “Domestic tire manufacturers are paying a lot of attention to sustainability and the ESG trend,” Sheerin says. Non-U.S. tire makers are not tracking ESG as keenly across the supply chain, he says, which surprises him.
Eastman, incoming chair of ISRI’s Tire and Rubber Division, urges members to get involved with state lobbying efforts through their chapters so laws don’t come as a surprise. “[Bills] get lobbed over a fence, and they get voted on,” he says. “If you don’t know the local legislators who are in your area, you’re really flatfooted, because you have no way to start to defend things that could be detrimental to your business.”
Photo courtesy of ISRI.