What Happens To Scrap Tires on the Big Island
Hawai‘i County Mayor’s Office announced that over one million motor vehicle tires are imported into Hawai‘i each year, according to a fact sheet on the State of Hawai‘i Department of Health’s website entitled “How to Manage Your Scrap Tires.” Consequently, a large number of scrap tires are generated when new tires are installed.
Hawai‘i law (Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes, Chapter 342I, Part II) requires a tire retailer to charge a disposal fee for each new tire purchased, even if the customer chooses to keep the old tire. The intent of the law is to decrease the health risks from tires by reducing the number of scrap tires in the community. Scrap tires may collect water which can contribute to mosquito borne diseases, or they can catch fire and create toxic smoke. The Hawaiʻi County Code also prohibits disposal of tires in landfills or transfer stations.
It is estimated that more than 50% of scrap tires from the island of Hawai‘i are used to generate electricity in waste-to-energy plants or heat for industrial uses. Most scrap tires are utilized to generate energy on O‘ahu, the U.S. mainland and in foreign countries.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 publication, entitled, “Scrap Tires: Handbook on Recycling Applications and Management for the U.S. and Mexico” states that 54% of scrap tires generated in 2007 were used as fuel, and only about 17% were processed into ground rubber and utilized to make many creative products.
Scrap tires are also recycled to make a wide range of products that include recreational court surfaces, rubber mats, mulch, fill material, rubberized asphalt, traffic cones and even furniture. The County of Hawai‘i’s Department of Environmental Management used scrap tire crumbs as ground cover at some of the county’s recycling and transfer stations. The county is unaware of any current on-island producers of used tire content products.