South Carolina is home to more tire-manufacturing facilities than any state in the country. That’s a positive. But the state is also home to illegal tire dumps.
Locally, we’ve seen the problems that can surround such dumps, which are a breeding ground for mosquitoes. They also are prime sites for fires that are difficult to extinguish, and can release toxic air pollutants as well oil that can contaminate ground and surface water.
Tires are banned from landfill disposal in South Carolina and are properly managed or recycled using funding from the $2 fee charged on each new tire purchased in the state, known as the Waste Tire Grant Fund.
According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, most waste tires are properly disposed of by permitted facilities and are frequently used as a substitute for gravel or other aggregates in septic tank drain fields or other drainage applications. Tires also can be recycled into rubberized playground surfaces, landscaping mulch, truck bed mats and other products.
As the leading tire maker in the nation, South Carolina is taking important steps to avoid being a tire dump capital.
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"If South Carolina can be a national leader in tire production and exports, it also can be a national leader in the sustainable management of scrap tires," DHEC Director Rick Toomey said. "DHEC remains committed to working with stakeholders at all levels, including the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, to become that leader."
Toward that goal, tire manufacturers, auto manufacturers, recyclers, retailers and environmental regulators from across the country met at the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association’s eighth Scrap Tire Recycling Conference held in South Carolina. They explored trends in the circular economy including challenges and opportunities for new and existing markets for scrap tires.
Stakeholders discussed the outlook for pyrolysis and devulcanization. Such markets can help advance the circular economy by converting scrap tires into raw materials that can be used to manufacture new tires, and rubber and plastic products.
Amid promise for reuse and recycling, the stakeholders also acknowledged the need for robust state scrap tire programs and the enforcement of scrap tire regulations. That includes locating illegal tire dumps, getting rid of them and holding the responsible parties accountable.
Tire dumps are the target of a new statewide initiative aimed at eliminating unpermitted tire stockpiles.
Introduced Dec. 4 by DHEC, PalmettoPride, and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the “See It, Report It” campaign encourages residents to quickly and anonymously report tire dumps three ways: calling the Litter Buster Hotline at 1-877-7 LITTER, using the free “Litter Buster” phone app, or using the “Report a Litterbug” option at www.palmettopride.org. The information reported is held in strict confidence, according to DHEC.
“From our perspective, changing behaviors that lead to illegal dumping begins with awareness and education. This campaign brings all the stakeholders on board in a joint mission: to encourage proper disposal practices,” said Sarah Lyles, executive director of PalmettoPride.
Approximately 250 million scrap tires are discarded in the United States each year. Of these, roughly 81% are reused or recycled. In South Carolina and elsewhere, ensuring proper disposal of the other 19% is a priority.