Scrap Tires - Environmental Hazards

When we think of environmental hazards, we often see images of chemicals in our state's waters, or air pollution coming out of smokestacks.  One hazard that may be overlooked, however, is scrap tires.  Scrap tires can threaten not only our environment, but the public health of Michigan as well.  Run-off from scrap tire fires can contaminate groundwater and surface water, and scrap tire sites are an ideal habitat for the breeding of mosquitoes carrying disease such as West Nile Virus. 

Scrap Tire site  (Click on image to enlarge) 


The Department of Environmental Quality's (DEQ) Scrap Tire Program is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the proper disposal of all scrap tires generated in the state, and with the cleanup of existing scrap tire piles in amounts of 500 or more.  Program staff regularly inspects scrap tire collection sites, processors, end-users, and generators, which include tire dealers and auto scrap yards. 


Inspection of scrap tire collection sites includes the collection of mosquito larval samples for analysis by the Department of Community Health to ensure that a site is not creating an unhealthy living environment for the community around it. 


Funding for the program is primarily from a $1.50 surcharge on all vehicle title fees charged by the Secretary of State.   This funding provides staff salaries and Scrap Tire Cleanup Grants for the removal and processing of scrap tires from existing piles.  It also provides funding for Scrap Tire End-User and Market Development Grants to increase the end-use and markets for scrap tires. 


Since the Legislature first appropriated funding in 1993, $28.3 million has been used for the cleanup of approximately 33.4 million tires at over 1,000 sites throughout the state.  Approximately $2.5 million has been allocated for Fiscal Year 2010, and it is anticipated that another two million tires will be removed this year from illegal scrap tire sites.   An additional 9.5 million tires have been cleaned up through compliance and enforcement efforts. 


It is illegal to dispose of whole motor vehicle tires in a landfill.  Most of the tires from cleanups are processed to two-inch chips and then burned as a supplemental fuel used in the generation of electricity and the manufacturing of cement.  The chips are also used in some areas for landscaping activities and drainfields. 


You can help reduce the number of scrap ties generated by following simple steps that increase tire life:  ensure that tires are inflated to proper levels, check inflation levels weekly, drive according to the legal speed limit, reduce speed around corners, and avoid quick starts and stops.  Make sure that tires are properly balanced and rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.  Do not overload the vehicle, and make sure it is properly aligned.   Taking each of these steps reduces wear on tires, saves money, and reduces the need for tire disposal. 


  (Click on images to enlarge) 


Scrap Tire site - before    Before                                       Scrap Tire site - after  After 


NOTE: Before and after photos from a scrap tire site in Berrien County. The tires from the site were chipped and hauled to a power plant for use as tire derived fuel for generating electricity.  Scrap tires are also often used as cover materials for area landfills.