Budget cuts gave area tire recycling program a flat

OWENSBORO, Ky. — Recycled tires have all kinds of uses, from padding for playgrounds to garden mulch to alternative fuel sources.

But add tire recycling to the long list of casualties of the bad economy.

The Kentucky Division of Waste Management estimates that about 4 million scrap tires are generated annually in the state.

Their improper disposal is a public health and environmental problem, according to the Legislative Research Commission.

“Waste tires do not decompose, so placing whole tires in landfills is an ineffective solution,” the LRC said in a report.

A highly successful 2008 state program that provided the funding to promote tire recycling has been abandoned due to state budget cuts.

“There’s no money available,” said Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire. “If tires come to us, they go into the landfill. There’s nothing else to do with them.”

In 2008, when the state partnered with Daviess County on a pilot program to recycle waste tires, more than 66,000 were turned in, Mike Hamilton, the county’s solid waste coordinator, recently said in the Messenger-Inquirer.

The seven-county Green River Area Development District at the time had been selected for a pilot project to clean up tires across the state.

Under the agreement, the state would select a contractor who would pick up full truckloads of tires from one or more collection sites in each county and recycle them.

In return, the counties would publicize the program and supply workers to unload tires at the collection sites.

Earlier this month, the state announced that counties “are being urged to apply for up to $3,000 each in waste tire removal and recycling grants.”

The money is being made available through the Department for Environmental Protection’s Division of Waste Management Waste Tire Trust Fund.

“It’s not a great deal of money,” Hamilton said. “That would pay for recycling about 1,000 passenger car tires. We’re still trying to figure out what we could do with $3,000.”

The state’s first tire amnesty program was launched in 1998, according to the LRC, with money for the program coming from a $1 fee tacked onto the sale of every new tire in the state.

Daviess County implemented the program in June 1999.

Approximately 300,000 used tires were collected at drop-off points around the county, shocking local officials who had expected far fewer tires.

In 2001, Owensboro Municipal Utilities began burning small chunks from used tires in a mixture of 2 percent tires and 98 percent coal.

The LRC says that since 1998, Kentucky’s waste tire program has managed to properly dispose of nearly 17 million tires.

But a recent LRC report on the issue says, “Kentucky’s success began to falter in 2007 as the economy began to weaken, prompting the state to begin re-examining internal budgets to find temporary fixes to fiscal deficits.

“Funding priorities within the cabinet began to change,” the report said. “More money was put into cabinet operations, such as personnel and operating expenditures, leaving less money to allocate to the waste tire program.”

In 2003, during the state’s second tire amnesty program, Daviess County took in more than 98,000 tires over three days.

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