Greenwich Time

Bill asks Conn. consumers to fund clean up illegally dumped tires

- By John Moritz

Efforts to clean up Connecticu­t’s illegal tire dumps hit a roadblock on Monday, as environmen­talists and local officials sounded off against an industry-back proposal that would place a fee on new tire sales to pay for recycling initiative­s.

While many of those advocates have longsought a dedicated program to address the disposal of the more than 3 million tires sold every year in Connecticu­t, they argued that a new bill to fund recycling and clean up efforts essentiall­y allows tire manufactur­ers to skirt the same responsibi­lity that has been placed on other hard-to-disposeof products like mattresses, paints and electronic­s.

Those programs, known as extended producer responsibi­lity, charge private-sector manufactur­ers with finding ways to handle their products once they are discarded, saving municipali­ties millions of dollars annually in disposal and clean-up costs.

While the legislatio­n proposes to create a similar extended producer responsibi­lity program for tires, critics said that it would merely create more work for state and local government­s by placing them in charge collecting and distributi­ng the fees placed on tire sales — while doing little to force companies to ensure that their products do not end up dumped in vacant lots, in woods, rivers, and streams, or even Long Island Sound.

“It essentiall­y puts the burden on the back of government to address the material management of tires,” said Jennifer Heaton-Jones, executive director of the Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority, which oversees waste management in much of western Connecticu­t.

The legislatio­n would create a $2 to $3 fee on tire sales depending on the size of the tire, the majority of which would be collected by the Department of Revenue Services each quarter and placed into a special fund used to offer grants to scrap tire recyclers and to municipali­ties to clean up illegal tire dumps. Retailers would be allowed to keep 5 percent of the fee to pay for their costs associated with the program.

A similar, $2 fee to pay for the disposal of scrap tires was abolished by the legislatur­e in 1997, according to the Department of Energy and Environmen­tal Protection. Instead, many retailers charge their own fees to collect and disposed of used tires, which in Connecticu­t typically means shipping the tires to Maine, where they are burned in pulp and paper mills.

Members of the tire production and recycling industry defended their proposal on Monday, arguing that roughly 99 percent of the tires sold in Connecticu­t are either recycled or burned, and that the remaining issues can best be addressed through local management and the developmen­t of new markets that purchase used tires and grind them up to make other products, such as artificial turf and rubber asphalt.

Even as Connecticu­t and other states have implemente­d full extended producer responsibi­lity programs for other products such as mattresses and paints, they argued, no state has mandated such a program for tires.

At Lakin Tire East in West Haven, for example, workers have processed more than 50 million tires since 1979, according to company vice president David Greenstein.

“The problem in Connecticu­t is not the existing collection and recycling system, it’s the illegal acts of tire thieves scavenging through retailers, scrap tire holding bins, selecting the good tire and illegally dumping the rest.” Greenstein said. “It’s truly a law enforcemen­t issue.”

Advocates on Monday said that they wanted a more expansive system such as those used in some Canadian provinces, which requires manufactur­ers to collect better data on the tires they sell in order to ensure that they are properly disposed of later.

After the tire industry successful­ly opposed earlier efforts to enact a statewide extended producer responsibi­lity program, Environmen­t Committee co-chair Rep. Joe Gresko, D-Stratford, said he reached out to industry representa­tives in the last year to have them craft their own proposal to address continued illegal dumping, which resulted in the legislatio­n that was debated on Monday.

Gresko — who has backed previous extended producer responsibi­lity legislatio­n, including a successful effort on gas cylinders — said he was not surprised by the backlash from environmen­tal groups and local officials, adding that the bill stood little chance of being passed by the Democratic-controlled committee as it is currently written.

“I had envisioned an EPR [program], I had asked them not to involve the state, to make it free, easy, and convenient for customers,” Gresko said. “Instead they gave me the language in this bill.”

Instead of trying to move forward on this bill, Gresko said that he will try to get stakeholde­rs from the industry as well as local government­s and environmen­tal organizati­ons to come together in the coming months to draft a compromise around an extended producer responsibi­lity program that places more of the burden on the manufactur­ers to see that their products do not end up in illegal dumps.

Passing legislatio­n to better manage the disposal of tires has been cited as a key priority of local officials and environmen­tal groups, who cite the state’s growing inability to handle the trash produced within its borders and the cost to cities and towns to ship that waste out of state.

 ?? Jon Shapley / Houston Chronicle ?? Connecticu­t lawmakers on Monday discussed ways to have the tire industry handle more of the responsibi­lity for ensuring their products do not end up in illegal dumps by the side of the road.
Jon Shapley / Houston Chronicle Connecticu­t lawmakers on Monday discussed ways to have the tire industry handle more of the responsibi­lity for ensuring their products do not end up in illegal dumps by the side of the road.

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