Product Stewardship, the practice of minimizing the health, safety and environmental impact of products across their entire life cycle while also maximizing economic benefits, is receiving increasing attention in both the public and private sectors. But years before the term was common in waste management vernacular, stewards of public health recognized the threat that certain wastes posed to public health and the environment and set about crafting policy and strategies to capture, re-process, re-refine or reuse these materials.
Tires are a case in point. The State of Colorado has the dubious distinction of being host to what was once the world’s largest tire dump. Tire Mountain in Weld County at one time reportedly held 80 million scrap tires. In 2005, Colorado SB05-141 created a Waste Tire Program and banned burying residentially-generated tires (along with motor oil and lead-acid batteries) in landfills, but surface landfills remain prevalent. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, Colorado remains home to the largest accumulation of unburied waste tires in the nation, housing 31 million of the 70 million remaining to be cleaned up. Surface tire landfills are prone to toxic fires which are hot and difficult to extinguish, often lasting for weeks or months. They are also a favorite breeding ground for mosquitos; of particular concern in the age of Zika and West Nile viruses.
In 2010, Colorado HB10-1018 refined the Waste Tire Program; unifying authority for the program from multiple state agencies to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and creating a Waste Tire Advisory Committee, comprised of industrial stakeholders including generators, processors and beneficial end use manufacturers who provide practical, experience based advice to the CHPHE.
Product stewardship programs are frequently funded by end-user fees. To fund the Waste Tire Program residents of Colorado currently pay a $1.50 on the sale of each new tire; in 2016 the state collected more than $7.1 million in fees. The revenue funds tire disposal enforcement, technical assistance to expand tire-derived product operations in the state, re-use market development and an end users fund that provides financial rebates for the beneficial use of waste tires and tire-derived products to commercial/industrial end users, retailers, and processors that sell their products to out-of-state end users. The top direct and end use markets for recycled tire products are alternative daily cover for landfills, tire-derived fuel, reuse/retread, fences and windbreaks, and crumb rubber used in synthetic athletic fields, as mulch and in asphalt products.
Colorado HB 14-1352 further strengthened the program by requiring reuse/recycling of waste tires from all generation sources. Tire landfills will not be able to accept tires after January 1, 2018 all tire landfills in the state are required to be shuttered by 2024. The law also reduces the waste tire fee to $.55 effective January 1, 2018.
Data from the June 2017 CDPHE Waste Tire Program report shows our state has made significant progress. Colorado remains an above-average generator of tires (1.32 per person vs. 1 national average), but since 2011 the number of waste tires recycled or salvaged in Colorado has equaled or outpaced its generation rate. In 2016, the state met its goal of recycling 100% of all tires generated plus all waste tires brought in from other states; a total of over 12.6 million tires. Additionally, stored inventories were reduced by 4.7 million tires between 2015 and 2016.
More recently, Colorado passed legislation aimed at managing end-of-life options for paint. The Colorado Architectural Paint Stewardship Act went in to effect July 2015 with the intent of making paint recycling easier and more convenient for residents throughout the state. The Act created a paint stewardship program that is managed by national non-profit PaintCare, which also manages programs in eight other states. The program is funded by fees paid on the sales of new paint which range from $.35 for pints to $1.50 for 5-gallon containers. Fees, which totaled $6,778,508 in 2016, cover processing costs, outreach programs and collection events.
So far, 155 year-round, permanent paint drop off sites have been established. Primarily located within paint retail stores and household hazardous waste facilities, there is now a drop off site within 15 miles of 94.6 percent of Colorado residents. For the small number of Coloradans without a permanent site within 15 miles, PaintCare conducts annual collection events.
Paint disposal is managed in accordance with an end-of-life management hierarchy. At the top is reuse; containers that are 50% full or more are sold or given away. Next is recycling where paint is combined and reprocessed into new colors and types. Alternative daily cover (latex only), third in the hierarchy, covers the surface of solid waste landfills to limit odors, fires and waste movement. Dried paint cannot be reused or recycled and goes to the landfill.
In 2016 there were 672,029 gallons of paint processed; 5% was reused, 70% was recycled, 6% served as alternative daily cover and 19% was sent to the landfill. With just one full year under its belt, the program is still in its infancy, and participation is expected to increase over time. Read the full report here.
The state estimates that we throw away about $260 million worth of re-useable waste each year. And Colorado has one of the lowest recycling rates in the nation. These two programs, rooted in improving public health and environment, provide a stewardship roadmap for preserving virgin resources, increasing the supply of reusable material, building and stimulating reuse markets, and spurring economic activity.