|WASHINGTON - A record 80 percent of old tires were recycled for other uses including fuel and playground equipment in 2003, according to a U.S. industry report released yesterday.|
\"Back in the early \'90s when there was over a billion tires in stockpiles, no one knew what could be done with them, and the markets that did exist were very small,\" said Dan Zielinski, a spokesman with the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the group that funded the study.
In 1990, the first year a report was issued, only 11 percent of scrap tires were recycled. In 2001, 77.6 percent were recycled. Recycling is expected to grow to about 85 percent of discarded tires by 2006, the group estimated.
\"Now, there has been a growing acceptance of tires as a resource,\" Zielinski said.
Last year, about 233 million old tires were recycled compared with 290 million new tires produced.
Discarded tires are used in a range of ways.
In 2003, 45 percent, or 130 million old tires, were used to make tire-derived fuels, a cheaper and cleaner alternative to coal for firing cement kilns, pulp and paper mills and industrial and utility boilers.
The civil engineering market consumed about 19 percent, or 56 million tires, in road and landfill construction and as a lightweight alternative to stones in preventing landslides. Ground rubber applications, which includes playground and other sport surfaces, used about 10 percent, or 28 million.
The remaining recycled tires were either exported or used in agriculture or steel production.
Despite the growth, Zielinski said funding for scrap tire clean-up programs were cut in 16 states last year as a tight U.S. economy squeezed state budgets. Unless funding for scrap tires increases, tire stockpiles will grow, he said.
Story by Christopher Doering
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE