When the EPA launched the SmartWay brand in 2004, the goal was to reduce emissions that can be directly attributed to the transportation industry. Besides the obvious marketing advantages for companies to “go green,” small fleets could benefit from innovative financing that makes SmartWay technology more accessible. In fact, the EPA recently announced that $20 million in Recovery Act funding will be awarded to the Clean Diesel Finance Program, with an additional $10 million to be awarded in the future. While it doesn't constitute a slew of guaranteed Federal loans, it's still a move in the right direction to reduce emissions and proves that the EPA is serious about SmartWay.
Fuel efficiency and reduced emissions are just part of the green movement in the tire industry. New tire and retread manufacturers are constantly working to minimize the carbon footprint on a process that requires a constant supply of energy. It's also important to note that most tire companies have already found ways to reduce or eliminate their dependence on petrochemical products and oils. Manufacturing a radial truck tire is hardly a “green” process, but the environmental impact today is a lot smaller than it was a decade or two ago.
Another area where the tire and retread industry has become more environmentally friendly is recycling. At one time, the tire buffing “dust” that is created during the retread process represented an expense for retreaders. With the growing interest in anything that features recycled materials, those same companies are now selling the crumb rubber to companies that manufacture rubber mats, playground surfaces and other products. Tire recycling has advanced to the point where sending scrap tires to the landfill is uncommon since the alternatives can lower costs and create revenue.
Unfortunately, tire dumping continues to be a problem despite government efforts to enforce existing hazardous waste regulations. In most states, scrap tire haulers must be licensed to pick up scrap tires and deliver them to an approved facility for proper disposal or processing. Fleets definitely expect scrap tires to be handled responsibly, given the fees that accompany each tire after it is removed from service. But there is no guarantee that the tires won't end up in an illegal tire dump — and that represents serious liability for many fleets.
Another EPA initiative is the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or the Superfund law. It states that any potentially responsible party (PRP) may be held liable for the entire cleanup of a site even if the illegal dumping took place prior to enactment in 1980. To make matters worse, a PRP “cannot simply say that it was not negligent or that it was operating according to industry standards.” If the EPA can prove the PRP sent hazardous waste to a site, then they will be held liable.
Most fleets don't deal with tire haulers or recyclers directly because the tire dealer or retreader handles scrap tire disposal. The paper trail of receipts that is supposed to protect a fleet by proving the waste was disposed of properly can become incriminating evidence in the blink of an eye.
Sadly, a fleet can pay thousands of dollars to properly dispose of tires only to find out that the tire dealer used a vendor that illegally dumped the waste and ran off with the money. The tire dealer and all of its fleet customers will ultimately be held responsible because in the end, someone has to pay — and Superfund ensures that it won't be the taxpayers.