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AKRON, Ohio The scrap tire, one of the nation's most perplexing waste material challenges, may soon only be a memory, according to Goodyear engineers. This past year the scrap tire reuse/recovery rate surpassed the recycling rate of aluminum cans and by the year 2000 capacity will be available to consume all scrap tires generated plus many of the stockpiled tires in the United States as fuel for the production of electricity, cement, steel and paper. 

This industrial achievement is attributable in large part to the drive and vision of two Goodyear engineers and marketplace technological advances. For the last seven years Andy Eastman, team leader of engineering applications, and Jack Zimmer, a Goodyear business and technical analyst, have worked to develop and grow markets to consume scrap tires. 

Their primary focus has been on converting tires to energy but additional markets divert approximately 18 percent of scrap tires to other uses. The number of facilities utilizing scrap tires for fuel is increasing. Each year there are new, viable, environmentally-sound markets that did not exist the previous year. 

"The horizon for the reuse/recovery of scrap tires continues to expand. For example scrap tire piles in the state of Oregon have been eliminated while the state of Illinois is now in the position of importing scrap tires to feed its recovery capacity," Eastman observed. One facility in particular, Illinois Power in Baldwin, Ill., has the capacity to consume eight million tires a year, which is two percent of the plant's Btu fuel requirement. 

For Zimmer the scrap tire project has been a long progression of building understanding. "Once people became aware that there is a world of difference between what they have seen of tires burning in an open field and what actually happens in a controlled situation such as a cement kiln we knew this would be successful," he said. 

Recently they have been advancing efforts to create an infrastructure to utilize scrap truck tires. Zimmer notes that in comparison to an 18 pound passenger tire a truck tire weighs about 100 pounds. 

"Our requirements are now centered around growing this market by seeking competitive uses for these tires once they have entered the waste stream," Eastman said. 

He noted the larger size and construction of truck tires in comparison to passenger tires will present new challenges for firms whose equipment is geared to handling the smaller tires. In light of his team's reuse/recovery successes Zimmer cautions those who might become tempted to view old tires as a resource, "Scrap tires are just that scrap. Today consumers should expect to pay around $1 a tire to have them hauled away. Outdoors they serve as a mosquito hatchery, and if ignited while abandoned in a field the smoke and the mixture of oils is a safety and environmental hazard," he said.

Goodyear's efforts to utilize scrap tires began in the early 1970s. By 1985 only about 10 percent of the scrap tires in the United States were used in some fashion. In 1995 that reuse/recovery figure rose to 72 percent of the 253 million tires scrapped. By the end of this year the reuse/recovery rate for scrap tires is expected to reach 95 percent. 

"There are many other uses for scrap tires that exist today and will evolve in the future, each should be explored," Eastman said. 

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